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UPDATE 1-France to help Egypt secure wheat supplies in coming months, minister says

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PARIS, March 28 (Reuters) - France will ensure that Egypt gets the wheat it needs in the coming months as the war in Ukraine creates supply risks for grain importing countries, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Monday.

Egypt, among the world's biggest wheat importers, is heavily reliant on shipments from Ukraine and Russia and its government has been seeking alternative supplies from countries including India and France.

"We will stand by Egypt to make sure it gets the wheat that it needs in the coming months," Le Maire said during an official visit to Cairo.

Egypt's Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly said in a separate statement on Monday that the country was counting on France to secure supplies of basic commodities like wheat.

The French government has joined international institutions in warning of a possible food crisis in developing countries in the year ahead if the Ukraine conflict drags on and causes lasting disruption to crop production and exports.

France, which holds the rotating European Union presidency, has also floated an international food security plan, which would include measures like allowing grain stocks to be released.

France, the EU's biggest wheat exporter, is an occasional supplier to Egypt. It has faced stiff competition from the Black Sea region that offers wheat which is cheaper and better suited to Egypt's milling standards.

A quality issue regarding wheat moisture had been resolved and France and Egypt will hold talks regarding price, with shipping costs an important factor, Le Maire said.

Egypt announced at the start of the month that it would extend for a year a maximum moisture level in wheat to 13.5% to help diversify its supply sources.

French wheat tends to have more moisture than Black Sea origins like Russian and Ukrainian wheat.

In an illustration of Egypt's supply search, a cargo of French wheat loaded this month destined for Egypt's private milling industry. While France sometimes ships wheat to Egyptian state buyer GASC, it has not been known to supply Egypt's private sector in recent years.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas, Aidan Lewis, Gus Trompiz and John Irish; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Marguerita Choy)

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