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UPDATE 1-Agritel ups French wheat crop estimate, sees maize at 21st-century low

(Writes through with details)

By Sybille de La Hamaide

PARIS, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Consultancy Agritel on Tuesday increased slightly its estimate of this year's French soft wheat crop but warned the European Union's top grain producer was heading for its worst maize harvest this century.

In a cereal market update, it put the 2022 soft wheat crop at 33.63 million tonnes, up from 33.44 million projected a month ago but still below the average of the past five years.

French soft wheat exports were running at an unusually high pace, with 2.5 million tonnes loaded in July-August, or about 25% of the country's export potential for the season, Agritel said in a cereal note.

That compared with about 14% of soft wheat exports typically loaded by the end of August, it said.

Overseas demand for French wheat has been fuelled by war disruption to trade in the Black Sea, but Agritel said the current export pace was not sustainable, given France's relatively small harvest.

It estimated that France, the European Union's biggest wheat supplier, had the potential to export 10.2 million tonnes of soft wheat outside the EU in the 2022/23 July-June season.

That was below a previous projection of 10.95 million tonnes that the consultancy gave in late July.

The relatively small crop and brisk exports were expected to leave France with end-of-season stocks of 2.2 million tonnes of soft wheat, which would be "a very low level", Agritel said.

For maize (corn), it said the upcoming French harvest was looking "catastrophic", forecasting the smallest volume so far in the 21st century at 10.8 million tonnes.

Maize has suffered from heatwaves and France's worst drought on record.

For the EU, Agritel projected maize production at a 15-year low of 53.8 million tonnes, in keeping with other market estimates. (Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Additional reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Bradley Perrett)

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