* U.S. wheat jumps 5 pct this week, Australia prices firm
* Asian buyers eye U.S. wheat as Canadian cargoes delayed
* Indian wheat one of the cheapest origins now - trader
By Naveen Thukral
SINGAPORE, Feb 7 Indian wheat could find buyers in Asia as a 5 percent jump in global prices this week has made shipments from the South Asian country competitive.
Asian flour mills are bracing for a delay in cargoes of top-quality spring wheat from Canada which could shift some of the demand to the United States, traders said.
"There haven't been many trades done for Indian wheat in Southeast Asia as the demand is very slow due to the holiday season," said a Singapore-based trader, referring to the Lunar New Year break.
"But mills have started checking prices of Indian wheat as it is one of the cheapest origins now."
Indian wheat is quoted at $280-285, including cost and freight (C&F), to Southeast Asia, compared with similar quality of U.S. wheat being offered around $310 a tonne and Australian standard wheat close to $300 a tonne.
U.S. wheat, which has gained almost 5 percent this week, is heading for its biggest weekly gain in more than four months as concerns over crop damage from cold temperatures across the U.S. Midwest underpin prices.
Indian wheat prices have eased $10-$15 a tonne in the last few weeks as expectations of a record-large crop weighed on the market.
The country is likely to soon permit more wheat exports as the world's second-biggest producer looks set to harvest a record crop of around 100 million tonnes this year, swelling stockpiles in an oversupplied world market.
A flour mill in Oman has purchased about 20,000 tonnes of Indian-origin wheat in a tender which closed on Tuesday.
Indian state trading company STC has issued two international tenders to sell and export a total of 200,000 tonnes of milling wheat. The deadline for both tenders is Feb. 24.
Asian wheat buyers are likely to suffer delays in supply of wheat from Canada which is facing logistical problems.
Many wheat importers in Asia, including Japan, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Malaysia, have booked cargoes of high-protein spring wheat from Canada for shipment in the months ahead.
"The only origin which can replace Canadian spring wheat is the United States," said a second Singapore-based trader. "Australia is not offering much of hard wheat."
Canada's record canola and wheat harvests have clogged its rail arteries and overwhelmed its ports, sticking Glencore and other grain handlers with millions of dollars in shipping penalties and leaving farmers' bins flush with crops worth less by the day.
U.S. hard red winter wheat was quoted at $340 C&F, up around $5 from last week, while spring wheat with 14 percent protein is being offered at $365 a tonne. Australian standard wheat is being priced at $300 a tonne in Southeast Asia and prime wheat at $ 305 a tonne. (Reporting by Naveen Thukral; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)
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