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U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is the industry’s market development organization working in more than 100 countries. Its mission is to “develop, maintain and expand international markets to enhance wheat’s profitability for U.S. wheat producers and its value for their customers.” USW activities are funded by producer checkoff dollars managed by 17 state wheat commissions and USDA Foreign Agricultural Service cost-share programs. For more information, visit or contact your state wheat commission.

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In This Issue:
1. USDA Projects Shifting Supplies of Wheat, Location Will Likely Impact Quality and Availability
2. Shifting Destinations of U.S. Wheat Exports
3. Overseas Customers Benefit from Continued Education Opportunities
4. Observing Pacific Northwest Wheat Quality Effort Builds Future Opportunity
5. USW Reviews Crop Quality for the 2017/18 Hard Red Spring, Soft White and Durum Crops
6. Wheat Industry News

PDF Edition: (See attached file: Wheat Letter - October 19, 2017.pdf)

1. USDA Projects Shifting Supplies of Wheat, Location Will Likely Impact Quality and Availability
By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst

USDA expects a lower world wheat production in 2017/18 of 751 million metric tons (MMT) (27.6 billion bushels), down slightly from the record high 754 MMT (27.7 billion bushels) in 2016/17 but 5 percent above the 5-year average. If realized, it would be the first production decline since 2012/13. While world wheat production is projected to decline year over year, USDA expects slightly higher total consumption in 2017/18 at 740 MMT (27.2 billion bushels), compared to the 5-year average of 705 MMT (25.9 billion bushels). With production expected to decline and consumption forecast to rise, availability of global wheat supplies is largely dependent on location and whether or not that country is an importer, exporter or China.

Record-large world carry-in stocks offset the production decline with total world supply reaching a projected 1007 MMT (37.0 billion bushels), up 12.4 MMT from 2016/17. However, removing China’s 2017/18 projected beginning stocks and production from global wheat supply reveals roughly a 3 MMT decline in global supplies. While small, the decline in global wheat supplies is compounded by a shift in location, which has implied impacts on availability, quality and, of course, price.

Exporting countries. USDA forecasts supplies in the top wheat exporting countries of Argentina, Australia, Canada, the European Union (EU), Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and the United States to decrease by 2 percent or roughly 10 MMT year over year to 460 MMT. A 9 MMT year over year increase in exporter beginning stocks partially offsets the anticipated 5 percent decrease in production. However, a 19 percent increase in Russian wheat supplies due to sharply higher 2017/18 production is partially masking forecasted declines in five of the major eight exporters — Argentina, Australia, Canada, Ukraine and the United States. Wheat supplies in the EU are expected to remain stable year over year at 161 MMT, and Kazakhstan wheat supply is expected to increase 2 percent from 2016/17 due to higher beginning stocks.

Russian wheat supplies total 20 percent of exporting country supplies, making the quality of the crop very important. SGS Russia, an independent crop inspection service, reported preliminary data for winter wheat in south, central and the Volga-Urals regions of Russia showed lower protein levels due to favorable growing conditions which boosted yields. According to the SGS data, 22 percent of samples graded as Russian 3rd class wheat (10.5 to 11.9 percent protein on a 12 percent moisture basis (mb)); 46 percent of the samples graded as Russian 4th class wheat (8.8 to 10.5 percent protein on a 12 percent mb); and 32 percent as 5th class wheat (feed wheat). SGS reports that some areas have Fusarium damage, high levels of sprout damage and very low falling numbers; but test weight values are generally higher across all regions.

Importing countries. Importing country beginning stocks are forecast to be 10 percent lower year over at 72.4 MMT, due to customers utilizing “just in time” purchasing strategy to take advantage of low global wheat prices. Production in the importing countries is expected to increase 7 percent year over year, lifted by a 11.4 MMT increase in India after two poor crops there. Total importing country supplies are expected to increase 2 percent to 307 MMT due to the lower beginning stocks falling and increased production. However, it should be noted that 108 MMT, roughly 35 percent, of that supply will remain in India.

China. USDA expects Chinese beginning stocks to climb to 111 MMT, up 14 percent over 2016/17. If realized, China will hold 43 percent of 2017/18 total global wheat beginning stocks. Chinese wheat production is also expected to rise in 2017/18 to 130 MMT, up 1.15 MMT from 2016/17. This puts total 2017/18 Chinese wheat supplies at 241 MMT, 7 percent greater than 2016/17. Yet Chinese wheat consumption is expected to decline 2 percent to 116 MMT due to an anticipated decrease in wheat feed usage. With supply up and consumption down, 2017/18 Chinese ending stocks are expected to grow to 127 MMT, up 14 percent from last year and a new record. If realized, Chinese ending stocks would account for 47 percent of all global wheat ending stocks for 2017/18.

While supplies in most importing countries are shrinking (India being the notable exception), global human consumption of wheat continues to grow. USDA expects global human wheat consumption to increase 2 percent in 2017/18, led by increases in regions that depend on imports for the entirety of their supply, including Southeast Asia, Central America and the Caribbean. With 81 percent of global wheat consumption going to humans, understanding the quality and availability of the 2017/18 crop is important.

The 2017/18 USW Crop Quality report will be available online on Monday, Oct. 23. Contact your local USW representative for more information about the 2017/18 U.S. wheat quality, production and logistics.

2. Shifting Destinations of U.S. Wheat Exports
By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst

Over the past twenty years, roughly 10 MMT of U.S. wheat exports have shifted from price sensitive markets to quality-driven markets. Consumption in quality-driven markets in Southeast Asia and Latin America increased an average 2 percent annually over the past ten years, according to USDA.

In 1995/96, the top ten destinations for U.S. wheat included Egypt, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, whose respective governments purchased large quantities of wheat for subsidized food programs and strategic reserves. Thus, these markets were very price sensitive. While some liberalization has occurred in these markets, subsidized food programs and strategic reserves are still the primary uses for imported wheat by these markets.

Rounding out the top destinations in 1995/96 were markets that value quality: Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Nigeria and the European Union. These markets continue to be top ten destinations for U.S. wheat. Over the past five years, U.S. wheat exports to these seven countries averaged 13.6 MMT compared to 9.78 MMT in 1995/96, an increase of 39 percent, while total consumption increased an average 7 percent over the same time period, indicating increased usage and preference for U.S. wheat despite prices often higher than from other sources.

Since 1995/96, wheat consumption in other quality-driven markets has also grown. Southeast Asian markets, including Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia1, have grown an average 6 percent annually. U.S. exports to the region increased 93 percent to 2.23 MMT in 2016/17, according to Global Trade Atlas data. Year-to-date, U.S. wheat export sales to the region total 1.23 MMT, on pace with last year’s pace. U.S. wheat exports also increased 59 percent to Latin and South America with 5-year average sales of 6.48 MMT compared to 4.07 MMT in 1995/96.

In 2016/17, the top destinations for U.S. wheat are a veritable who’s who of the markets that value quality, dominated by Asian, Latin and South American markets. In total, the top ten destinations represented 64 percent of U.S. wheat sales during that marketing year. Countries in Central America and South America, including Chile, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, were in the top 20 destinations for U.S. wheat and accounted for another 9 percent. See the latest USW Commercial Sales report for the resulting increases in wheat exports to the increasingly quality-driven markets in Southeast Asia, Latin and South America.

The goal for any company selling a high-quality product is to make demand for that product inelastic — an increase in price does not have an equal decrease in quantity demanded. Put another way, consumers have such a strong preference for the good that increases in price result in very small decreases in quantity demanded. Creating inelastic demand takes a combination of the right consumers, the right product, hard work, and, in many cases, time.

It is a market development strategy that also provides value to U.S. farmers in the form of higher prices for their wheat compared to farmers in most competing countries. U.S. farmers also continue to work on product quality, investing an average $12 million annually on wheat research through their state checkoff programs, according to a study done by the National Wheat Improvement Committee in 2012. USW has also put more focus and resources into its marketing efforts in markets that are traditionally quality conscious and experiencing growth, such as Japan, Mexico and the Philippines.

1The Philippines is normally included in the Southeast Asia region, but due to the prior reference, its exports sales were excluded from this region’s analysis.

3. Overseas Customers Benefit from Continued Education Opportunities
By Erica Oakley, Director of Programs

Each year, USW sponsors overseas customers to travel to the United States as members of a trade delegation or to attend a short course, with more than 100 customers participating each year.

In 2017, USW sponsored a total of 72 participants from Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe to attend seven short courses and four workshops at the Northern Crops Institute, the IGP Institute and Wheat Marketing Center, and for the first time, at the USDA Agricultural Research Laboratory in Wooster, Ohio.

The courses provided by these institutions are instrumental in providing customers with the information needed for making future purchases by covering a range of topics to educate them on the value of U.S. wheat classes and providing exposure to the U.S. grain marketing system, the flow of grain from farm to port and the U.S. inspection system, to name a few. Through targeting bakers, millers and end-product manufacturers, USW and our partners showcase the quality of products that can be made using wheat from the United States.

Trade delegations are another way for customers to learn about U.S. wheat. This year, USW hosted a total of 12 trade delegations composed of 63 customers and 14 staff. Customers from Japan, Algeria, Morocco, Taiwan, Chile, Nigeria, South Africa, Korea, Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore visited 11 states (California, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington), as well as Washington D.C., and USW’s Headquarters in Arlington, Va.

Visiting wheat-producing states allows customers to directly connect with farmers, state wheat commissions and industry partners, while learning about the U.S. wheat marketing structure and transportation logistics.

Whether it is through short courses or trade delegations, the goal is the same for USW and partners: to promote the reliability, quality and value of all six U.S. wheat classes to customers around the world. Our success relies on the success of our customers and their ability to create products that appeal to consumers in markets around the globe.

4. Observing Pacific Northwest Wheat Quality Effort Builds Future Opportunity
By Steve Mercer, Vice President of Communications

Even though Japan has imported more than half of its annual milling wheat needs from the United States for many decades, the market requires constant attention in an increasingly competitive world wheat trade environment. U.S. wheat farmers are doing that in part by building relationships with future senior managers in Japan’s milling industry.

With the support of USW and export market development programs administered by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, the Washington Grain Commission (WGC) and the Oregon Wheat Commission (OWC) hosted a team of four Japanese flour milling managers and the managing director of the Japanese Flour Millers Association Oct. 8 to 12, 2017. These managers are from companies that produce almost 80 percent of all the flour consumed in Japan. The visit reinforced the ways in which the entire U.S. supply chain is working to constantly improve the quality, performance and value of the wheat these customers need.

“This was an excellent team,” said WGC CEO Glen Squires. “They were looking at our wheat and supply system with the perspective of having more authority and responsibilities in their positions.”

“Producing and exporting high quality wheat is no accident,” said USW Vice President and West Coast Office Director Steve Wirsching. “It is a process that requires tremendous investment and effort by a team of wheat breeders and cereal scientists. We showed these millers that farmers in the Pacific Northwest have invested heavily in varietal development that is paying dividends.”

That message came through quite clearly.

“Our visit with the wheat breeders at Washington State University and with the staff at the Western Wheat Quality Laboratory was a very good reminder that there is much work being done to develop new and improved varieties of both soft white and club wheat development,” said Mr. Koji Ishizuka, Manager, Quality Control and Assurance Group, Nisshin Flour Milling Inc.

Club, a sub-class of soft white, is an essential component of the Western White wheat blend that Japan buys more of than any other importers. Mr. Ishizuka and the rest of the team also visited the HighLine Grain facility in East-Central Washington, which draws a significant amount of club wheat from area farmers.

With additional stops in Washington, including time with USW Chairman and Ritzville, Wash., wheat farmer Mike Miller, and to grain handling systems in Portland, Ore., the team essentially followed wheat from production to export. In Portland, the millers met with the Japanese Importers Association, OWC staff, WMC and Overseas Merchandise Inspection Company (OMIC). Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) inspector Kim Harper put on a mini-grain grading seminar to demonstrate how the federal agency objectively certifies the integrity of wheat relative to the buyer’s contract as it is loaded on a vessel.

“The skill of the inspectors and their ability to identify potential issues with wheat is reassuring,” Mr. Ishizuka said.

According to the Japanese Flour Millers Association, per capita annual wheat consumption has grown sharply, from 56.7 pounds in the 1960s to 73 pounds today as the Japanese diet has become more diversified. Japanese consumers now spend more of their income on bread products than rice.

The Japanese domestic milling and baking industries are highly advanced and fully automated, and demand consistently high-quality wheat. They must address concerns from an increasingly sensitive consumer base on issues such as pesticides, allergens and biotech products. However, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry (MAFF) carries out milling wheat purchases and sells the wheat to Japanese flour mills. The managers on this team will be in position to provide periodic information to the MAFF officials on their needs, based on the strict characteristics their bakery customers demand. The Japanese grain trade acts as intermediaries between MAFF and overseas sellers, and OMIC USA, in Portland, Ore., provides testing and inspection services.

“This visit will help these managers better understand how U.S. farmers and the export system can deliver uniformly high-quality wheat and help them make more informed purchase decisions,” said Wataru “Charlie” Utsunomiya, USW Country Director for Japan, who led the team.

5. USW Reviews Crop Quality for the 2017/18 Hard Red Spring, Soft White and Durum Crops

USW and its partner organizations have completed the crop quality analysis of the 2017/18 U.S. hard red spring (HRS), soft white (SW) and durum crops. The final data is summarized below. The complete analyses will appear in class-specific reports and USW’s 2017 Crop Quality Booklet, and shared with hundreds of customers around the world as part of USW’s annual Crop Quality Seminars.

Full regional quality reports for the 2017 HRS, SW, northern durum and Desert Durum® crops are posted at

Hard Red Spring. USDA estimates that the total 2017/18 HRS supply (excluding imports) is down 19 percent from 2016/17 due to smaller production and beginning stocks.

Overall, 97 percent of Eastern Region and 83 percent of Western Region samples graded U.S. No. 1. The overall average test weight is 61.6 lb/bu (81 kg/hl), similar to the 5-year average, though the Western Region average is lower due to drought. The average protein is 14.6 percent (12 percent mb), higher than both 2016 and the 5-year average. More than one-half of all samples have greater than 14.5 percent protein in 2017 compared to just 36 percent in 2016.

The smaller 2017 HRS crop has many positive attributes, including high grades, plentiful protein, little to no DON and very good functional performance. Protein levels, shrunken and broken kernels and thousand kernel weights are more variable than recent years due to the vast differences in growing conditions across the region. Diligent contract specifications are still encouraged on this high-quality crop to ensure buyers get the quality expected.

Soft White. USDA estimates total 2017 SW production at 6.14 MMT, down slightly from 2016. Of that, the Washington Grain Commission estimates white club (WC) accounts for 359,000 MT.

The 2017 SW and WC overall average grade is U.S. No. 1. The average SW test weight of 60.9 lb/bu (80.1 kg/hl) is close to last year's 60.8 lb/bu (80.0 kg/hl), while WC test weight of 60.2 lb/bu (79.2 kg/hl) is slightly less than 2016's 60.8 lb/bu (80.0 kg/hl). The overall SW and WC wheat protein contents (12 percent mb) of 9.6 percent and 9.4 percent, respectively, are each 0.5 percentage point below the respective 2016 values and well below the wheat protein 5-year averages.

The 2017 PNW soft white wheat crop is generally characterized by having similar kernel characteristics to last year with good test weight, lower moisture content, lower protein content, higher falling number values and acceptable finished product characteristics. This year’s WC quality characteristics follow the same trend as SW. The high protein segment of the SW crop provides opportunities in blends for Asian noodles, steamed breads, flat breads and pan breads.

Durum. Production in the U.S. Northern Plains is down by more than 50 percent from 2016 due to a small decline in acreage and sharply lower yields caused by severe drought. Scattered rain delays toward the end of harvest affected the color of a portion of the crop.

The 2017 Northern durum crop average grade is U.S. No. 1 Hard Amber Durum (HAD). However, a larger portion of the samples than in 2016 graded U.S. No. 1 or 2 Amber Durum due to color loss in some areas. Average test weight of 60.9 lb/bu (79.4 kg/hl) is slightly below last year. Hot, dry conditions pushed protein levels higher, with the 2017 average at 14.5 percent (12 percent moisture basis).

Buyers will be pleased with this year’s excellent grading Northern durum crop boasting strong protein levels, overall high vitreous kernel levels, higher semolina extraction and improved mixing and pasta quality characteristics. With reduced supply and isolated areas with lower vitreous kernel levels, lighter thousand kernel weights and some DON detections, buyers should always remain diligent in their contract specifications.

2017 Desert Durum® production acreage was less than in 2016, largely due to lower prices available at planting time. Yields were average, and quality was uniformly good. The crop exhibits consistently large kernels and low moisture, traits that contribute to efficient transportation costs and high extraction rates. The 2017 crop will deliver the valuable milling, semolina and pasta quality traits that customers have learned to expect and appreciate.

U.S. wheat farmers, through their state commission membership in USW, and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service fund the annual crop quality survey of all six U.S. wheat classes. USW’s overall 2017 Crop Quality Report will be available next week online at USW will also be sharing the results of the survey with hundreds of overseas customers at several upcoming events, including USW's annual crop quality seminars. Buyers are encouraged to construct specifications carefully to be sure they receive qualities that meet their needs.

6. Wheat Industry News
  • Quote of the Week: "After graduate school, I jumped at the opportunity to work for U.S. Wheat Associates, which immediately exposed me to the multitude and complexity of challenges that we face in selling our wheat overseas." Gregg Doud, nominee for Chief Agricultural Negotiator, with the Rank of Ambassador, United States Trade Representative, at a U.S. Senate confirmation hearing.
  • World Pasta Day is October 25. Media and other influencers are always interested in sharing information, tips and recipes for this popular food holiday. Visit the International Pasta Organization at for resources and follow the conversation at #worldpastaday.

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