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GRAINS-Wheat firms on Russian export curbs, U.S. drought

(New throughout; changes byline, dateline, previously PARIS/MUMBAI)

By Christopher Walljasper

CHICAGO, March 15 (Reuters) - Chicago Board of Trade wheat futures gained on Tuesday, supported as export curbs by Russia fuelled concerns about global supply, while traders see the recent decline as an opportunity for bargain buying.

Soybeans fell in reaction to investor worries that renewed coronavirus outbreaks in China could curb demand, while corn traded both sides of even as trade awaited talks between Moscow and Kyiv that could progress towards a ceasefire.

The most-active wheat contract on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) added 48-1/4 cents to $11.44-1/2 a bushel by 11:12 a.m. CDT (1612 GMT). The 4.27% gain was the biggest daily jump since March 4.

CBOT corn added 6 cents to $7.54-1/4 a bushel, while soybeans fell 9-3/4 cents to $16.60-3/4 a bushel.

Russia on Monday enacted a planned suspension of grain exports to former Soviet countries, though the government said it would allow special licenses to traders within its current grain export quota.

Ukraine could be unable to plant 4.7 million fewer hectares this spring, a 39% decline, due to Russia's military invasion, the APK-Inform agriculture consultancy said.

"You take two of the biggest corn and wheat exporters in the world and put them on the sidelines, there’s just a lot of uncertainty out there," said Ed Duggan, senior risk management specialist at Top Third Ag Marketing.

In the United States, declining crop ratings for winter wheat from the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed poor conditions in drought-affected states, further underpinning markets.

"That rain’s got to start happening by the first full week of April, or else they’ll see crops going backwards quickly," said Mark Schultz, chief analyst at Northstar Commodity.

Corn and soybeans were pressured by outside markets, with crude oil, falling steeply on resurgent COVID-19 cases in China that could lead to tougher restrictions on populations and hurt demand for raw materials.

CBOT's most-active soybeans bounced off of their lowest in seven sessions after the National Oilseed Processors Association (NOPA) reported that U.S. soybean processors crushed 165.057 million bushels of soybeans in February, in line with analyst predictions of 165.024 million bushels, making last month the second-busiest February on record. (Reporting by Christopher Walljasper; additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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