UPDATE 1-FranceAgriMer raises wheat export forecast for third month in a row

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PARIS, Dec 11 (Reuters) - Farm office FranceAgriMer on Wednesday increased its forecast of French soft wheat exports outside the European Union this season for the third month in a row, in another sign of favourable overseas demand for the EU’s biggest wheat exporter.

In monthly supply and demand estimates for major cereals, FranceAgriMer forecast French soft wheat shipments outside the EU this season at 12.2 million tonnes, a four-year high and up from 12.0 million projected last month.

The revised 2019-20 wheat export forecast was up 26% from last season. FranceAgriMer increased its forecast in both October and November from an initial prediction of 11 million tonnes in September.

The second-largest French soft wheat harvest on record, less competition than usual from Russia and an unusual run of French wheat sales to China have all bolstered exports so far in the 2019-20 season that began in July.

French wheat has also increased its market share in Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat importing country, including the sale of two cargoes in a tender held by Egypt on Tuesday.

FranceAgriMer said last month its outlook was more cautious compared with some market participants who expect up to 13 million tonnes of French soft wheat shipments outside the EU.

The office cancelled a news conference at which officials usually comment on the forecasts due to a transport strike linked to protests over pension reform.

The revised export forecast contributed to a cut in projected soft wheat stocks at the end of the season. Stocks were now expected to be 2.4 million tonnes, down from a previous forecast of 2.5 million and 3% below last season.

For durum wheat, which is used in pasta, projected 2019-20 stocks were revised down by 30,000 tonnes to just 56,000 tonnes, the lowest in at least eight years, as expected exports were raised again despite a much smaller crop this year.

FranceAgriMer also cut its forecast for French maize stocks at the end of the season to 2.1 million tonnes from 2.2 million last month.

This was mainly due to a cut to market supply, as more maize was expected to be used directly on farms. That outweighed a slight reduction to expected exports within the EU.

Estimated French barley stocks were left unchanged at 2.1 million tonnes as FranceAgriMer made few changes to its supply and demand outlook. (Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Sybille de La Hamaide and David Clarke)