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France to send grain export delegation to Algeria as Russia seeks access

PARIS, Oct 10 (Reuters) - France will send a delegation to Algeria early next year to discuss grain sales, an official said on Wednesday, as French wheat exporters worry about Russian lobbying to enter their biggest market.

French wheat producers fear their dominant position in Algeria's market could be challenged as Russia is seeking to gain access to the North African country's import tenders.

Algeria effectively bars Russian wheat due to a strict limit on bug damage in grain, making it one of the few import markets not to have seen a rise in flows from Russia, the world's largest wheat supplier.

Following a promise to the grain industry last month to organise a trip to Algeria, French junior trade minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne asked export promotion agency Business France to prepare a visit for the first half of 2019, an official at the minister's office said on Wednesday.

The visit would be preferably in the first quarter, the official said.

French grain exporters' association Synacomex said the diplomatic support was welcome given Russian lobbying to enter the Algerian market.

Algeria in recent years has accounted for around half of French soft wheat exports outside the European Union, and the share has been even greater so far in the 2018/19 season at about 80 percent.

(Reporting by Valerie Parent and Gus Trompiz; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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