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UPDATE 2-French wheat export forecast cut as competition seen rising

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PARIS, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Farm office FranceAgriMer on Wednesday lowered its forecast for French soft wheat exports outside the European Union in 2022/23, saying competition from other origins could curb a brisk start to France's export season.

Soft wheat shipments outside the EU were now seen at 10.0 million tonnes, down from an initial projection of 10.3 million in July though 14% above the 2021/22 volume, FranceAgriMer said in a cereal supply and demand outlook.

France, the EU's biggest wheat producer, has seen high summer shipments as war in Ukraine disrupts Black Sea supplies.

However, a recovery in shipments from Russia, which is expected to harvest a record crop, and the resumption of sea exports from Ukraine have revived usual Black Sea competition.

"It's not because exports have been active in this first half of the season that French wheat will remain so attractive for the whole campaign," Paul Le Bideau of FranceAgriMer's grains unit told reporters.

Within the EU, FranceAgriMer made a slight upwards revision to its forecast for 2022/23 soft wheat exports to 7.13 million tonnes from 7.02 million previously.

Traders also expect France's export capacity to be capped by a smaller harvest this year and drought damage to maize (corn).

FranceAgriMer increased its projection of domestic demand for wheat in animal feed to 4.4 million tonnes, up from 3.9 million previously, in what Le Bideau said reflected a shift away from maize.

The office kept almost unchanged its projection of French soft wheat stocks at the end of the season next June at 2.36 million tonnes, against 2.34 million forecast in July and a reduced estimate of 2.71 million for 2021/22.

FranceAgriMer has not yet published a 2022/23 balance sheet for maize, with officials saying it was too early to make forecasts with the harvest only 5% complete.

The French farm ministry on Tuesday forecast that the drought-hit maize crop will fall to a 32-year low.

For 2021/22, FranceAgriMer reduced its estimate of maize stocks to 2.23 million tonnes from 2.62 million in July, as it revised down supply.

For barley, projected 2022/23 ending stocks were raised to 1.66 million tonnes from 1.56 million, as increased expectations for feed use and intra-EU exports were offset by an upward revision to harvest supply and a cut to forecast shipments outside the EU. (Reporting by Gus Trompiz and Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by David Goodman and Jonathan Oatis)

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