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Australia lowers wheat export forecast by 7.7% on drought

SYDNEY, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Australia on Tuesday lowered its forecast for wheat exports for the 2019/20 season by 7.7% as a prolonged drought wilts supplies.

The reduction comes after Australia's chief commodity forecaster last week cut its production forecast for the 2019/20 harvest by nearly 10% as the drought leaves crops struggling to survive.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) on Tuesday said wheat exports would total 10.8 million tonnes in the crop year beginning in July, down from its previous estimate in June of 11.7 million tonnes.

Lower Australian exports will support global benchmark prices, which are lingering around a one-month high amid fears about tighter global supplies.

Smaller Australian exports will also be a drag on the country's stuttering economy.

Wheat is the country's most lucrative rural export from an agricultural sector worth about A$50 billion ($34.39 billion).

With dwindling supplies, Australian end-users have required rare imports. ABARES said that as off Aug. 30, licences to import 300,000 tonnes of Canadian wheat have been issued.

($1 = 1.4541 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Colin Packham; editing by Christian Schmollinger)

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