(Repeats story published late Wednesday; no change to text)
* Buyers in talks for 500,000 T of Australian wheat
* Looking for new-crop January-March shipment wheat
* Chinese buying interest to underpin Australian prices
* China seen buying 2-3 mln T of 13/14 Australian wheat
By Naveen Thukral and Colin Packham
SINGAPORE/SYDNEY, July 17 Chinese importers are
negotiating deals to buy at least half a million tonnes of
Australian wheat for January-March shipment as the world's top
consumer scrambles to fill a shortfall in domestic supplies
following extensive crop damage.
China's wheat crop has suffered more severely than
previously thought from frost in the growing period and rain
during the harvest, and import demand to compensate for the
damage could see the country eclipse Egypt as the world's top
Wheat imports by China, which accounts for a fifth of the
world's production and consumption, is expected to underpin
global prices as adverse weather has left as much as 20 million
tonnes, or 16 percent of the nation's crop, unfit for human
"There is ongoing interest for about 500,000 tonnes of
Australian standard wheat and Australian prime wheat," said an
A Singapore-based trader said Chinese buyers were bidding
for 500,000 tonnes of Australian wheat but they could end up
buying higher quantities for supplies in the first half of 2014.
China has already locked in about 300,000 tonnes of new-crop
Australian wheat in contracts signed at the end of June and
early this month.
SQUEEZING SUPPLIES FOR TRADITIONAL BUYERS
Overseas traders and analysts estimate China's wheat imports
in 2013/14 could rise above 10 million tonnes, surpassing the 9
million tonnes that Egypt is expected to buy.
Traders said China are expected to take between 2 million
and 3 million tonnes of Australian wheat in the year to June
2014, substantially higher than the 500,000 tonnes to 1 million
tonnes it typically buys, forcing traditional importers to seek
"Looks like Chinese demand will completely disrupt supplies
to the Middle East and others like Indonesia will be forced to
pay higher prices," said one wheat trader in Perth.
Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen are key buyers of
Australian wheat in the Middle East with some shipments going to
private millers in Egypt as well. Indonesia is the one of the
top buyers of Australian wheat in Asia followed by Japan and
China has already booked around 3 million tonnes of wheat,
mainly from the United States, Australia and France, for
shipment in the year to June 2014, nearing last year's
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday raised its
forecast for China's imports in 2013/14 to 8.5 million tonnes
from 3.2 million tonnes in the previous year, prompting U.S.
wheat prices to rally to more than two-week highs.
Australian cash prices have firmed up following Chinese
buying interest, traders said.
Australian prime wheat is quoted around $320 a tonne, free
on board, for January and Australian standard wheat is being
offered around $310 a tonne, with both varieties up $15 to $20 a
tonne from a few weeks ago.
Chinese farmers visited by Reuters in the top producing
province of Henan said kernels shrunk because of the frost early
this year followed by more damage with grains germinating due to
the rainstorms in May. Henan is in the northern grain belt,
which accounts for about half of China's output.
(Editing by Ed Davies and Muralikumar Anantharaman)