Tunisia warns wheat supplier to avoid France loadings over port strikes

Tunisia’s state grain importer has warned its wheat suppliers that they load cargoes out of France at their own peril as port strikes looked set to continue, advising traders to seek alternative origins or risk breach of contract.

A fax signed by Office des Cereales (ODC) Supply Director Abdessattar Fehri and addressed to Casillo Commodities appeared on Twitter on Tuesday, telling the trade house to avoid loading cargoes from French ports.

“In view of the prevailing situation in French ports… You are requested to take all measures to avoid this origin, even though it is contractual, as this is in the interest of both parties,” the fax, dated January 28, said.

Casillo sold two cargoes of West European origin milling wheat to ODC as part of a tender that closed in December, with shipment scheduled for February 5-15 and February 15-25.

Switching to alternative origins just days before a vessel was set to be nominated calls the viability of the deal into question, with spot prices for other West European origins prohibitively expensive.

German 12.5% wheat for February loading – the nearest proxy for French 11.5% – was assessed by Agricensus at $224.50/mt FOB Hamburg on Tuesday, $4/mt higher than a French cargo.

Further West European cargoes are slated to head to Tunisia in February and March, with Casillo again a seller alongside Soufflet.

So-called Dead Ports strikes have hit several terminals around France, with a 72-hour walkout last week disrupting grain loadings.

Unions announced Tuesday that they would resume industrial action from Wednesday.

The port strikes have come even as a breakthrough appeared to have been reached between France’s government and transport unions after a wider, weeks-long dispute over pension reform brought chaos to the country.