French food trade rebounds near 1 bln euro in August

Thu Oct 11, 2012 1:40pm EDT

* August surplus up more than 25 pct on previous year

* Surging alcohol and rebounding grain exports help

By Sybille de La Hamaide

PARIS, Oct 11 (Reuters) - France's food trade surplus reached nearly 1 billion euro ($1.3 billion) in August, up more than 25 percent year-on-year, mainly boosted by wine and spirit and grain exports, the farm ministry said on Thursday.

France's raw and processed food trade surplus, one of the few positive contributors to the country's balance, was at 967 million euros ($1.25 billion) in August, against a surplus of 842 million euros in July, down 2.5 percent year-on-year.

On Tuesday data showed that the country's overall deficit had widened in August, mainly due a sharp, energy-driven jump in imports.

"The surplus in farm commodities rose after several months of decline," the ministry said. "Over the first eight months of the year, the surplus reached 7 billion euros ($9 billion), up 132 million compared to the same period in 2011."

The trade balance in processed foods continued to rise rapidly with wine, champagne, cognac and sugar the main leaders, while exports of raw commodities such as grains picked up.

France's food and farm trade balance was mainly boosted by exports outside the European Union, up 14 percent year-on-year, while trade amounts within the bloc were nearly unchanged.

Alcohol sales continued to rise with French wine and champagne trade showing a surplus of 4.4 billion euros in the eight months to August, up 14 percent on year, while spirits and liquors were up 27 percent from August last year at 1.7 billion euros, the farm ministry data showed.

Heavy demand for liquor helped French spirits group Remy Cointreau beat forecasts in first-quarter sales.

World grain prices surged in the past year after drought damaged crops on the U.S. plains, the Black Sea region and more recently Australia, which helped French grain sales.

The ministry also referred to hefty sales of French barley to Saudi Arabia, an unusual move prompted by the poor crop in Ukraine that opened the door to European exports. ($1 = 0.7726 euros) (Editing by Keiron Henderson)

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