A surge in wheat offers took some of the polish from a "flurry" of import orders, which saw Algeria buy 480,000 tonnes of the grain, after Egypt took to 1.68m tonnes its purchases in less than a month.
Algeria's state grains agency, OAIC, on Thursday bought 480,000 tonnes of optional-origin milling wheat at prices of $204-206 a tonne, cost and freight included, traders said.
The purchase – which follows OAIC's orders last month of 585,000 tonnes of optional-origin milling wheat, plus 200,000 tonnes or more of Canadian durum wheat – represented the latest of a series of activity by importers, with buyers from Jordan, Japan and the Philippines also said to be in the market.
On Wednesday, Gasc, the grain authority for Egypt, the world's top wheat importing country, bought 420,000 tonnes of milling wheat from France, Russia and Ukraine at an average of some $209.50 a tonne including freight.
The purchase took to 1.68m tonnes, and $350m, Gasc's wheat purchases at tender in less than month.
Bear market over?
Indeed, the wheat market is witnessing a "flurry of international wheat tenders", said Richard Feltes at Chicago broker RJ O'Brien, amid ideas that the early-March slide in prices may represent only an interruption of a reviving trend in values.
Gasc wheat purchases at tender, March 15
60,000 tonnes of French wheat from Casillo at $195.84 a tonne plus freight of $15.05 a tonne
60,000 tonnes of Russian wheat from Olam at $195.90 a tonne plus freight of $12.39 a tonne
60,000 tonnes of Russian wheat from Louis Dreyfus at $197 a tonne plus freight of $12.39 a tonne
60,000 tonnes of Russian wheat from AOS at $197.65 a tonne plus freight of $12.50 a tonne
60,000 tonnes of Russian wheat from Aston at $197.65 a tonne plus freight of $12.50 a tonne
60,000 tonnes of Russian wheat from Daewoo at $197.70 a tonne plus freight of $12.50 a tonne
60,000 tonnes of Ukrainian wheat from Louis Dreyfus at $195 a tonne plus freight of $12.74 a tonne
The retreat in prices, which on Chicago's futures market fell on Tuesday to their lowest since late January, was "consistent with" previous corrections since a price "uptrend began in early December", Mr Feltes said.
With futures back in positive territory on Thursday, they remain 18.6% above an early December low, on a spot contract basis, supporting ideas from some commentators that they may be at the start of a rebound, following a bear market which began in 2008.
However, at 17, and sourced from five countries, the number of cargos offered to Gasc's latest tender was viewed as underlining the extent of supplies of wheat too.
At the previous tender, two weeks ago 14 cargos were offered, with the total nine to the February 17 event, and six in a mid-March tender last year, although this was at a time of concern over Egypt's policy over ergot contamination in wheat imports.
"It is definitely a good sign for prices that you are getting so much interest from importers," a grain trader told Agrimoney.com.
"It is interesting they seem to be restocking so much now, rather than perhaps pacing themselves more, with the northern hemisphere harvest still a while away."
"But you have to look at the supply side too before getting too excited."
US origin cheapest
In fact, prices paid by Gasc were lower than at the previous tender, in line with the early-March drop in global wheat futures.
For instance, on Russian origin, merchant Aston won business this time for wheat at $197.65 a tonne excluding freight, $2.30 a tonne below the rate at which it offered to the February 28 tender.
Daewoo's winning offer of $197.70 a tonne was $1.85 a tonne below the price it tendered Russian wheat at last time, and won an order.
However, the cheapest wheat offered excluding freight was from the US, from Louis Dreyfus, which offered soft white wheat at $189.60 a tonne, while tendering higher-quality hard red winter wheat at $194.45 a tonne.
However, shipping from the US to Egypt costs more than $20 a tonne, to judge by offers to the February 28 event, compared with the $12-13 a tonne from the Black Sea.