PARIS/SINGAPORE- U.S. and European wheat futures rose sharply on Thursday as a series of import tenders and fears of rain damage to Australia's harvest took attention away from a new coronavirus variant.

Soybeans were firm as news of a fresh import purchase by China lent support.

Corn also rose, helped by higher crude oil prices and concern over dry growing conditions in Argentina and southern Brazil.

The most-active wheat contract on the Chicago Board Of Trade (CBOT) was up 2.0% at $8.06-1/4 a bushel by 1149 GMT.

In Europe, March wheat on Paris-based Euronext was up 2.4% at 294.25 euros ($333.71) a tonne.

Wheat futures extended a rebound from near three-week lows struck on Tuesday, when investor jitters over the impact of the Omicron variant had sparked a broad sell-off.

News on Thursday of an import tender by Saudi Arabia was a latest sign of buyers taking advantage of the recent pullback in prices. 

Egypt's state buying agency on Monday made its biggest purchase in years while Tunisia is holding a tender on Thursday. 

Renewed demand has put the focus back on ebbing availability of milling-grade wheat, with top supplier Russia considering further export restrictions and alternative supply from Australia made uncertain by torrential rain. 

Supply concerns had last month pushed Chicago wheat to a nine-year high and Euronext to an all-time peak. 

"The supply shortfall in the northern hemisphere is pushing buyers to go for more Australian wheat," said Ole Houe, director of advisory services at brokerage IKON Commodities in Sydney. "But we have more lower quality wheat crop."

Australian farmers are on course to harvest a record 34.4 million tonnes of wheat this year, but early harvest results have shown more lower quality readings. 

CBOT soybeans Sv1 were up 0.5% at $12.34 a bushel and corn added 1.1% to $5.77-3/4 a bushel.

Chinese importers bought a small number of bulk soybean cargoes on Wednesday for shipment in December and January from the U.S. Gulf Coast and Brazilian ports, analysts and an export trader said. 

($1 = 0.8818 euros)

(Reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris and Naveen Thukral in Singapore; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Susan Fenton) ((; +33 1 49 49 52 18; Reuters Messaging: