ISLAMABAD, Sept 25 (Reuters) Pakistan has issued a tender to import 100,000 tonnes of milling wheat, joining a long list of buyers scrambling to cover their needs as prices skyrocket, senior agency official said on Tuesday.
''The tender will close on October 8,'' the chairman of state-run Trading Corporation of Pakistan, Abdul Malik, told Reuters. The United States, Canada and Australia were possible sources, he said.
The government decided on Sept. 15 to import 1 million tonnes of wheat to maintain buffer stocks following rising domestic prices of wheat and wheat flour despite a bumper crop.
This was the first Pakistani tender since that decision was announced and came amid a tight grain export market and rising world wheat prices.
From Canada to Australia, grain forecast have been increasingly grim, and adding to the alarm are the number of countries shopping for grain on world markets.
The private group Australia Wheat Forecasters said on Tuesday Australia's 2007/08 crop could shrink to as little as 12 million tonnes, if rain did not fall in the next two weeks.
The Australian government last week cut its forecast of the national wheat crop by over 30 percent to 15.5 million tonnes.
After rising again overnight in reaction to the withering Australian wheat crop, Chicago wheat futures eased in morning electronic trade in Asia, falling 0.31 percent to .75 a bushel by 0324 GMT.
Pakistan, the latest country to test the market, said last week wheat output in the 2006/07 crop year was 23.3 million tonnes. Officials had earlier estimated it would be 23.5 million tonnes. Output in 2005/06 was 21.7 million tonnes.
In January, expecting a bumper crop, Pakistan lifted a 2 1/2 year ban on wheat exports, imposed to protect domestic supplies, and allowed private traders to export 1.3 million tonnes.
That ban was reimposed in May after a surge in domestic prices, but not before traders had exported about 366,000 tonnes from the sanctioned quantity.
But, Pakistani officials say the country has enough wheat to meet domestic requirements, estimated at 22 million tonnes a year, and the import of 1 million tonnes of wheat will help meet needs until the new crop starts arriving in mid-February.
REUTERS SBA DS1434