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Paris wheat down before USDA data, German prices firm on rain risk

PARIS - Euronext wheat futures drifted lower in light trade on Friday as the market prepared for widely watched U.S. government crop forecasts, while German premiums rose on concern about rain disrupting the local harvest.

Front-month September milling wheat on the Paris-based Euronext exchange was 1.00 euros or 0.6 percent lower at 166.75 euros a metric ton by 1444 GMT, while the December contract was down 0.75 euro at 170.50 euros.

Paris futures held in their recent consolidation range as traders continued to weigh up poor harvests in France and elsewhere in western Europe against bumper crops in the Black Sea region.

Friday's U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report, released at 1600 GMT, will be watched for adjustments to wheat supply across the European continent, as well as revisions to U.S. corn and soybean production.

"The market is pretty subdued in the run-up to the USDA report. The yield estimates for U.S. corn and soybeans are the main focus but adjustments in Europe for wheat will be interesting too," one futures dealer said.

A long weekend ahead in France, where there is a public holiday on Monday, was also keeping activity light.

Traders were continuing to monitor harvesting in the far north of France to get an overall picture of this year's weather-hit soft wheat harvest that is expected to show the worst yields in around 30 years.

Farm office FranceAgriMer on Friday said that 76 percent of the soft wheat area had been harvested by Aug. 8, up from 62 percent a week earlier.

Damp, chilly conditions have held up field work this week in northerly zones, but harvesting could accelerate in the coming days with warm, sunny weather forecast.

Traders in Germany were waiting to see if drier conditions expected from Saturday would allow harvesting to pick up after a rain-hit campaign.

"Concern is intensifying about loss of quality and harvest volume. Some of the rain in north Germany was continuous today rather than the recent short showers which is a threat to crop quality," one German trader said.

Standard wheat with 12 percent protein content for September delivery in Hamburg was offered for sale at 1.0 euro over the Paris December contract against 0.5 euro over on Wednesday. Buyers were seeking 0.5 euro over Paris.

Harvest rain in the Baltic States was also causing concern.

"Large new-crop export shipments were booked from the Baltic States which cannot be shipped as sufficient volumes of new crop have not arrived yet," another German trader said.

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