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PARIS, Dec 17 (Reuters) - The European Union has become a net importer of grain for the first time in more than a decade following a drought-affected wheat harvest, strong competition in exports from Russia and a record pace of maize imports.
As of Dec. 16, the EU has imported a net 13.15 million tonnes of grain so far in the 2018/19 season, compared with net exports of 12.64 million tonnes in the same period last season, European Commission data showed on Monday.
The last time the EU was a net grain importer was the 2007/08 season, when the harvest was also damaged by drought, data compiled by Reuters shows.
The EU is one of the world's largest grain exporters, mainly of wheat where it competes with Black Sea countries and the United States. It has traditionally been a net importer of maize (corn).
The balance this season has been altered by a sharp slowdown in wheat exports, linked to a poor harvest damaged by hot, dry summer weather and brisk Russian shipments, and massive maize imports after a poor crop.
EU soft wheat exports so far in 2018/19 totalled 7.5 million tonnes as of Dec. 16, down 25 percent from 9.9 million at the same stage of last season, the Commission data showed.
Barley exports had reached 2.5 million tonnes, down 1 percent from a year earlier.
Maize imports, meanwhile, stood at 9.9 million tonnes, up 41 percent from 7.0 million tonnes a year earlier.
At the end of last season on June 30, the EU's 28 member states had exported 32.2 million tonnes of grains and imported 23.4 million, official data showed. (Reporting by Valerie Parent; Writing by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Gus Trompiz and Mark Potter)