Asia Grains-Vietnam eyes corn shipments, other buyers hold off
* Vietnam eyes 50,000 T of corn for February shipment
* Buying slows on forecasts of record S. American crop
* Asian wheat buyers eye shipments for April
* Australian heatwave curbs farmer selling, prices firm
By Naveen Thukral
SINGAPORE, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Feed mills in Vietnam are likely to hit the market to buy corn for February shipment, although grain demand elsewhere in Asia remained slow this week on expectations that record-large production in South America will bring down prices.
Wheat importers from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand are expected to cover shipments for April arrival following a decline in U.S. prices, traders said.
"It is very quiet as everyone is expecting soybean meal and corn prices to ease as soon as South American supplies enter the market in March," said one Singapore-based trader. "We have seen buyers checking prices, but not much business has taken place."
Brazil is expected to harvest a soy crop of more than 80 million tonnes, which would see it leapfrog the United States to become the world's biggest producer of the oilseed.
Argentina, the world's No. 3 exporter of soybeans and corn after the United States and Brazil, is expected to have record harvests of both crops this season although concerns over hot weather have lifted futures.
Chicago Board of Trade soybeans have added 0.3 percent this week, the market's third straight week of gains. Corn is down around half a percent after rallying over the last two weeks.
Vietnam, which usually buys grain cargoes on a prompt basis, needs to book at least 50,000 tonnes of corn for February arrival.
"They bought some corn in containers this week and I think they will book more cargoes before the Lunar New Year holidays," a second Singapore-based trader said. "Vietnam needs to cover both corn and soymeal supplies for prompt shipment."
Taiwan's Maize Industry Procurement Association purchased 60,000 tonnes of corn to be sourced from Argentina in a tender this week. It was all purchased at a premium of $1.24 a bushel C&F over the Chicago May corn contract, traders said.
In Asia's wheat market there was lack of interest among buyers to lock-in supplies even as a severe drought threatens to curb production in the United States, the world's top exporter.
"There is no urgency as most buyers are covered up to March but there could be some purchases as prices have come down," said the first Singapore trader.
Chicago March wheat is down 3.2 percent this week, giving up some of the strong gains of the previous two weeks on profit-taking.
In the physical market, U.S. soft white wheat was quoted around $360 a tonne, C&F, while hard red winter wheat was offered close to $390 a tonne -- both varieties down about $10 from last week.
Crop-killing drought deepened in Kansas over the last week, further jeopardizing this season's production of winter wheat.
Kansas is generally the top U.S. wheat-growing state, but the crop planted last fall hasn't had enough moisture. Without rain or heavy snow before spring, millions of acres of wheat could be lost.
Australian farmers are holding back wheat stocks from last month's harvest, with the worst heatwave on record scorching the nation's grain belt.
Australian spot wheat prices have firmed with prime wheat being offered around $380 a tonne, C&F, Asia and standard wheat quoted around $368 a tonne. (Editing by Tom Hogue)
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