CHICAGO (Reuters) - Uncertainty about the origin of unapproved, genetically modified wheat found growing in Oregon is pressuring the U.S. white wheat market more than two weeks after the discovery was revealed, grain merchants said on Friday.
Export demand has dried up, with major buyer Japan extending a ban on wheat from the Pacific Northwest region that was imposed after the discovery. South Korean millers have suspended wheat imports from the United States pending tests.
It appears the genetically engineered wheat in Oregon was an isolated incident, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Friday. The department continues to investigate how the wheat arrived there.
"We're still lacking our Southeast Asian demand until that gets settled," said Byron Behne, marketing manager for Northwest Grain Growers in Washington. "We're just sort of stagnant now."
White wheat delivered in July was quoted nominally on Friday at $7.19-3/4 a bushel to $7.29-3/4, down 11-1/2 cents from last week and 40-3/4 cents from two weeks ago, according to a USDA market report.
Japan, the world's sixth-biggest importer of wheat, bought U.S. feed wheat in a tender on Friday and food wheat from the United States and other suppliers on Thursday. Yet it refrained from taking any of the U.S. western white wheat variety that grows in the Pacific Northwest.
In the week ended June 6, the first full reporting period since the Oregon discovery was announced, net export sales for U.S. white wheat were just 4,477 metric tons. That was far below average sales of more than 106,000 metric tons over each of the previous five weeks.
Most exporters on Friday were not issuing bids for soft white wheat to be delivered in June to Portland, Oregon, a key export terminal in the Pacific Northwest, according to the USDA market report. The region is the largest export gateway for U.S. wheat.
Most exporters who are not issuing bids already have their short-term needs covered and are waiting for the next harvest to begin in about two weeks, merchandisers said.
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)
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