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CME closer to EU wheat contract after silo breakthrough: sources

PARIS (Reuters) - CME Group has moved closer to launching long-planned European Union wheat futures after resolving contract issues with grain silo operators in France, trade sources said.

CME, the world’s largest futures exchange, could announce its EU wheat market within weeks, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity as the plans are still confidential.

Several sources said trading in the futures was expected to start in June, with September 2016 the first delivery position.

A CME spokesman said in an emailed response that the group was “actively engaged with market participants” but did not have a launch date to announce.

He declined to comment on the plan’s progress, which CME has been working on for more than two years.

A launch would put CME in competition with Euronext in Paris, whose milling wheat contract <0#BL2:> is a benchmark in the European Union, the 28-country bloc which is collectively the world’s biggest wheat grower and exporter.

Market upheaval caused by a rain-hit French harvest two years ago, which led the port silos that acts as Euronext’s delivery points for wheat to impose extra quality requirements, fuelled interest in CME’s rival project.

Euronext has faced a further setback in recent months as a new premium wheat contract <0#BMS:>, launched in response to the controversy over the 2014 harvest, failed to take off. It said on Friday it was scrapping the premium futures.

INLAND SILOS

The trade sources said the Chicago-based CME has almost finalised contracts with enough French cooperatives to act as regional delivery silos following protracted talks.

Two sources said CME had concluded contracts with four French silo operators, and one said it was close to signing with a fifth, which would give CME enough capacity to allow physical delivery of wheat.

The contracts were finalised after CME overcame certain legal issues facing French cooperatives. They feared they would lose their cooperative status if they generated significant income from storing grain for third parties, the sources said.

CME has stuck to the wheat quality specifications set out in earlier drafts of its EU contract, including a 10.5 percent minimum protein content, the sources said.

Like Euronext’s futures, the CME contract would be denominated in euros and priced in relation to wheat delivered to the northern French port of Rouen.

CME, however, has retained a distinctive scheme of inland delivery silos in France, aimed at offering a wider choice of storage points and better reflecting different regional markets.

This has won support from some market participants who have criticised Euronext’s contract for being too export-oriented, due to the port delivery system.

But some traders say the European exchange retains a clear advantage as the incumbent operator, with participants wary of losing the established liquidity of the Euronext contract.

Additional reporting by Gus Trompiz and Sybille de La Hamaide, editing by David Clarke

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