* Australia's 2016/17 wheat crop seen at record 31-32 mln T
* Spread between Australia-Ukraine wheat prices narrows
* Weaker Australian dollar also making wheat exports
By Naveen Thukral
SINGAPORE, Nov 30 Australian wheat suppliers are
poised to regain market share in Asia as the world's No.4
exporter harvests what is likely to be a record crop,
threatening to rein in shipments to the region from rival Black
Australia has in recent years surrendered some of its share
of major wheat markets such as Indonesia, with sellers from
Russia and Ukraine offering cheap cargoes.
But the country is set to boost exports to Asia as it is
forecast to churn out around 31-32 million tonnes of wheat in
2016/17, beating the previous record of 29.9 million tonnes set
five years earlier.
"We are priced competitively to catch the demand that is on
our doorstep in Southeast Asia," said Matthew Pattison, a
manager at trading company Nidera Australia in Brisbane.
Australian standard wheat with 9-percent protein was this
week quoted at $185 a tonne, free on board. Although that is
more than a similar variety of Ukrainian wheat offered at
$178-$180 a tonne, Australia typically has a freight advantage
in Asia over Black Sea suppliers of about $10 a tonne.
"(It) has already hit Ukrainian exports to the region," said
a foreign trader based in Ukraine, declining to be identified as
he was not authorised to speak with media.
"There is almost no demand for Ukrainian grain (in Asia)
because most of the needs are covered with grain from Australia
Wheat harvesting has gained momentum in recent weeks across
Australia, with initial results showing better-than-expected
yields, traders and analysts said.
"I think farmers have harvested around 50 percent of the
crop which is getting bigger than what everyone expected," said
Ole Houe, an analyst at brokerage IKON Commodities in Sydney.
"We may well receive 9-10 million tonnes of grain across all
states this week."
That marks a turnaround from a few weeks ago when producers
feared rains would delay the harvest and threaten crop quality.
"Protein levels are much higher than what everyone thought,"
said a Sydney-based trader. "We have more wheat with 10.5- to
Australia had been expected to produce more wheat with
around 9- to 10-percent protein.
A weaker Australian dollar - down about 2 percent
against the greenback this month - is also boosting the appeal
of exports from the country.
The Philippines, which has bought over 440,000 tonnes of
wheat from Ukraine between July-September, according to
consultancy UkrAgroConsult, has been taking Australian standard
wheat in recent tenders.
The world has been awash with wheat supplies and the U.S.
Department of Agriculture has estimated all-time high global
inventories at the end of the crop-year in June 2017 at nearly
250 million tonnes.
Benchmark U.S. wheat futures slid to a 10-year low in
August and since then the market has struggled to recover.
(Reporting by Naveen Thukral in Singapore; Additional reporting
by Pavel Polityuk in Kiev and Colin Packham in Sydney; Editing
by Joseph Radford)