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Agritel cuts Romanian wheat crop forecast on dry May

(Adds Romanian consultancy)

PARIS, June 14 (Reuters) - Agritel has cut by 15% its forecast for this year's wheat harvest in Romania after a dry May strained crops in one of the European Union's biggest grain producers, the consultancy said.

Following a field tour last month, Agritel lowered its outlook for the wheat crop to 8.76 million tonnes from 10.35 million projected in April, now below an estimated 9.2 million in last year's drought-affected harvest, it said in a note.

«Findings showed that drought set in while winter wheat was still at a vulnerable stage in its development, with the flowering and grain-filling period both impacted,» Agritel, the agriculture analytics arm of commodity data firm Argus, said.

After falling to a near two-year low in May, European wheat prices have rebounded this month as dry weather and war disruption in Ukraine have rekindled supply concerns.

Agritel's revised outlook for Romania's wheat crop was lower than other forecasts, including 9.57 million tonnes estimated by grain trade association Coceral in EU forecasts this week.

In Romania, Cezar Gheorghe of consultancy AGRIColumn said his estimate remained unchanged at 10.5 million tonnes of wheat this year, while his estimates for barley and rapeseed crops rose to 2 million tones each.

Harvest prospects in Romania have taken on additional significance as it is one of five eastern EU countries that saw an influx of Ukrainian grain since Russia's invasion, leading the EU to approve temporary trade restrictions.

Gheorghe said he estimated Romania will have up to 21 million tonnes of grains and oilseeds available to export in the 2023/2024 season, down from an earlier estimate of 23 million.

«As Ukrainian grain export restrictions to Romania remain in place, Romanian farmers may sell more domestically,» Gheorghe told Reuters.

Agritel's wheat production view was based on a projected yield of 4.05 hectares per tonne, 12% below an adjusted five-year average, and an estimated crop area of 2.17 million hectares, slightly below last year's.

The updated forecast, released to clients at the end of May, assumed weather conditions would not improve before harvesting in early July, Agritel said.

Winter barley and rapeseed in Romania were not expected to be significantly affected by recent dryness as they develop earlier than wheat, with 2023 yields seen at an average level, it said.

Corn could be at risk given planting delays this spring and low moisture reserves, but there was still time in its cycle for conditions to improve, Agritel added. (Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Additional reporting by Luiza Ilie; editing by David Evans)

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