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Iran may purchase EU wheat amid supply disruptions

PARIS, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Iran may step up its purchases of European wheat after heavy rains pounded the southern hemisphere, threatening to disrupt supplies from Argentina and Australia, exporters said.

Iran last week bought 180,000 tonnes of European Union soft wheat, including 120,000 from France and 60,000 from Sweden.

It also purchased 240,000 tonnes of Argentine wheat, but several exporters said Argentina was becoming increasingly reluctant to sell additional quantities of its new harvest given the uncertain impact of the rains.

European exporters are already convinced that Iran, the world's second largest wheat buyer, is facing supply difficulties as a result of weather problems experienced by its two traditional suppliers, Argentina and Australia.

Iran is expected to import 7.0 million tonnes of wheat in 2000/01, down from 7.3 million the previous season, according to the latest estimates from the International Grains Council. But exporters believe this volume could be exceeded.

"The Iranians are currently on the look-out, with the problems the rains in Argentina and Australia are causing," said a European Union grains sector source.

But France is unlikely to see large benefits from any shopping spree after its wheat harvest was damaged by heavy rains during harvesting, with Iran more likely to seek higher-quality German and Swedish wheat instead, exporters said.

Iran was France's largest client last season, purchasing a total of 1.517 million tonnes, according to cereals office ONIC.

Argentina's weather problems could also affect other wheat importers, such as Algeria, which might return to Germany to make up any supply deficit, exporters said.


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