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Australian Wheat Deal Signed

AWB Ltd, Australia's monopoly wheat exporter, has won a contract worth about US$267 million to supply China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corp. It is its biggest order from China in at least eight years.
The 1.5 million-ton deal for milling-grade wheat announced on Monday follows an order 11 months ago from the Chinese central grain-buying agency for one million tons, Melbourne-based AWB said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange.
Additional orders may be placed to plug domestic shortages of wheat suitable to make bread, dumplings and other flour-based food staples, spokesman Peter McBride said. More purchases may help to ease a global oversupply that's contributed to a 15 percent slide in Chicago wheat futures prices this year.
"We believe China will continue to be an importer, depending on its stockpiles and production levels," said McBride. "The size of any imports is the unknown."
AWB said in the statement that the shipping program for the new contract was already underway and would extend into the new year.
The government said on Monday that wheat imports jumped more than 18-fold in the first 10 months of this year to six million metric tons when compared with the previous year.

China chose Australian wheat over supplies from North America and Europe because of Australia's "quality and freight advantage," McBride said.

(Xinhua News Agency November 23, 2004)

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