PARIS, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Soft wheat exports from French ports stayed at a six-year high in January despite intermittent docker and tug boat strikes that saw shipments delayed for up to three weeks in some cases, Refinitiv data showed on Monday.
About 1.33 million tonnes of soft wheat left French ports last month, the highest in January since 2014 when 1.66 million tonnes was exported in the month.
Soft wheat shipments were 10,000 tonnes less than the previous month, when loadings also set a six-year high for the month of December.
Stoppages at French ports last month added to headaches for grain companies, which also saw inland transport disrupted by a month-long rail strike from early December in protest against pension reform.
A feared grain shortage was avoided due to ample stocks and a switch to trucks to replace idled trains, although traders say costs have spiralled and certain export loadings were transferred to other European countries.
Soft wheat exports outside the European Union also set a six-year high for the month of January at 1.21 million tonnes.
That took the total to non-EU destinations since the start of the 2019/20 season in July to 6.37 million tonnes, the data showed, trailing the pace needed to reach the 12.4 million tonne full-year forecast of farming agency FranceAgriMer.
Total grain shipments in January - including barley, malting barley, maize, waxy maize and durum wheat - reached a four-year high for that month at 1.57 million tonnes, compared with 1.70 million the previous month, which was the highest for December in Refinitiv data going back to 2009.
In contrast to brisk wheat loadings, barley shipments fell in January to 86,600 tonnes, a six-year low, durum wheat shipments reached a four-year low at 42,000 tonnes, while malting barley recorded a three-year low at 41,300 tonnes.
Overall grain shipments were buoyed by 420,000 tonnes exported to Morocco, a six-year high and close to the 432,000 tonnes sent to Algeria, usually France’s largest grain export market.
Operators employed 96 ships to load all the grain shipped last month, compared with 137 ships used in January 2014 to carry the previous high of 1.86 million tonnes. (Reporting by Forrest Crellin, editing by Gus Trompiz and Mark Potter)