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A month-long effort that had U.S. wheat farmers and industry experts presenting the 2023 Crop Quality Report to customers in more than two dozen countries is winding down with a collective sense of accomplishment.

It is believed at least one attendance record was set this year.

The annual series of U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Crop Quality Seminars, which provide crucial information to customers and provide an opportunity for wheat buyers to interact and create a dialogue about the quality of the wheat crop, began in Sub-Saharan Africa on Nov. 1. Seminars in Central America/Caribbean and South Asia beginning soon after. Seminars in South America, the European Union and North Asia wrapped up on Nov. 20.

Only two dates remain: Seminars will take place in Dubai on Dec. 5 and Casablanca on Dec. 7.

Large Attendance

“The large attendance we saw this year highlights how much our customers value U.S. wheat’s timely and transparent information,” said USW Marketing Analyst Tyllor Ledford, who participated in her first Crop Quality Seminar. Ledford presented at the South Asia seminars (see photo above), which took place in the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. “Throughout the three seminars, we were able to reach customers from Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The seminar in Bangkok was the largest on record, with nearly 140 participants.”

Attendance was strong throughout the 2023 Crop Quality Seminar series including here in Seoul, South Korea.

Attendance was strong throughout the 2023 Crop Quality Seminar series including here in Seoul, South Korea.

Producers Cory Kress (Idaho) and Aaron Kjelland (North Dakota) presented on New Technologies in Agriculture and Planting Decisions for Farmers. Likewise, U.S. country elevator managers Jason Middleton and Tyler Krause provided a presentation about grain origination and how it is handled at the first point of sale, in addition to by-class perspectives from exporters.

“The farmers and wheat buyers were happy to reconnect with familiar faces they had seen on trade team visits to the U.S. and other events,” said Ledford.

Positive Feedback

Erica Oakley, USW Vice President of Programs, said there has been a lot of positive feedback from each of the seven regions where Crop Quality Seminars were held.

“Our customers around the world have complimented U.S. wheat staff and presenters from our partner organizations,” said Oakley. “We had a lot of good information to share, so credit goes to the U.S. farmers who produced a high-quality wheat crop.”

Mexico

USW’s Mexico City Office hosted more than 225 participants representing flour millers and wheat buyers from Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.

China

The North Asia Crop Quality Seminar team traveled to Suzhou, China, and presented to about 160 flour millers, wheat buyers, and baking industry representatives. Guest of note included Ms. LaShonda McLeod Harper, Director of the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Agricultural Trade Office in Shanghai, and the senior COFCO Wheat Department Manager Mr. Sun Wei who had just participated in a USW-sponsored trade team visit for COFCO managers to the United States.

Group of about 160 U.S. and Chinese wheat industry officials and managers at the 2023 USW Crop Quality Seminar in Shanghai, China, Nov. 2023.

About 160 wheat buyers, flour millers, and baking industry executives participated in the 2023 USW Crop Quality Seminar in Suzhou, China.

Japan

Montana wheat farmer Denise Conover greets Japanese wheat industry executives at a USW Crop Quality Seminar in Tokyo, Japan.

Montana wheat farmer Denise Conover greets Japanese wheat industry executives at the 2023 USW Crop Quality Seminar in Tokyo, Japan.

In Tokyo, Japan, 130 customers attended a Crop Quality seminar. Attendees included flour milling companies from across the region, Japanese traders, grain inspectors and members of the media.

“The participants were very satisfied with the presentations and engaged them in active discussions and questions to gain a deeper understanding of the quality of this year’s U.S. wheat crop,” said Rick Nakano, USW Country Director in Japan.

South Korea

A total of 90 participants, including customers from the flour milling and food processing industries, attended the seminar held in Seoul, South Korea. It was the first in-person seminar held in South Korea in three years.

“Customers expressed great satisfaction with the on-site Crop Quality Seminar,” said USW Country Director Dong-Chan “Channy” Bae. “Notably, despite the typically reserved nature of Korean attendees, there was an engaging discussion on the market, wheat quality, and logistics during a question-and-answer session.”

South America

Seminars in South America attracted a good number of customers, reports USW Regional Director Miguel Galdos.

“In the seminar held in Cali, Colombia, participants represented 30% of total wheat imports in Colombia,” he said. “Meanwhile, in Bogota, more than 35% of total wheat imports were represented.”

USW Regional Director Osvaldo Seco welcomes participants to a 2023 Crop Quality Seminar in South America.

USW Assistant Regional Director Osvaldo Seco welcomes participants to a 2023 Crop Quality Seminar in South America.

A seminar In Quito, Ecuador, drew companies accounting for at least 90% of U.S. wheat imports. The same can be said for seminars in Lima, Peru, and Santiago, Chile – both saw more than 90% of U.S. wheat purchases represented.

Sub-Saharan Africa

USW’s Cape Town Office conducted Crop Quality seminars in Nairobi, Kenya; Lagos, Nigeria; and Cape Town, South Africa. Presenting quality data from the 2023 harvest were Dr. Senay Simsek, Department Head for Food Science at Purdue University; Charlie Vogel, Executive Director of the Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotion Council; and Royce Schaneman Executive Director of the Nebraska Wheat Board.

Simsek presented on Solvent Retention Capacity (SRC) and industry analyst Mike Krueger presented via video on the world supply and demand situation for grains.

In Nairobi, USW also conducted a demonstration at the African Milling School using soft red winter (SRW) and hard red winter (HRW) for local products, such as chapati and mandazi.

By Ralph Loos, USW Director of Communications

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The 2023 U.S. hard red spring (HRS) crop was produced under a wide range of growing conditions. A late spring delayed planting but the early moisture helped establish the crop. Then conditions across the region turned hot and dry with only spotty areas of rain. The rain returned and delayed mid- to late-harvest. Ultimately, total production reached 12.7 million metric tons (MMT), 14% more than in 2022.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) reports hard red spring quality highlights for three export locations. First is for HRS from the western region that supplies export facilities in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). Quality data for HRS that moves from the eastern region to the Gulf of Mexico and to the Great Lakes are reported together. The complete 2023 USW Crop Quality Report and detailed by-class reports are being produced now and will be posted online over the next few weeks.

Close up photo of hard red spring wheat kernels.

2023 HRS PNW-Exportable Overview and Highlights

The 2023 U.S. hard red spring (HRS) wheat crop grown in the western (PNW-exportable) region offers strong grading characteristics, good protein content, typical dough strength, and improved bake parameters compared to recent years. 

The average grade for the 2023 PNW-exportable HRS harvest survey is U.S. No. 1 Northern Spring (NS), with 84% of samples grading U.S. No. 1.

Average test weight is 60.7 lb/bu (79.8 kg/hl).

The PNW-exportable crop has lower VITREOUS KERNEL (DHV) content, averaging 61% compared to 88% in 2022 and 84% for a 5-year average.

Wheat protein averages 14.1% (12% mb), below 2022 and the 5-year average. Distribution of protein is 32% below 13.5% protein and 40% above 14.5% protein.

Average 1000 kernel weight (TKW) is 32.1 g, well above 2022 and the 5-year average.

Buhler Laboratory Mill flour yield averages 66.7%, above 2022 and the 5-year average. Lab mill settings are not adjusted to account for kernel parameter shifts between crop years. The extraction is calculated on a tempered wheat basis.

Average flour ash is 0.48%, lower than last year and the 5-year average.

Wet gluten averages 32.4%, lower than 2022 and the 5-year average.

Amylograph average of 639 BU is much lower than 2022 and lower than the 5-year average, reflective of isolated areas with harvest rains.

Dough properties suggest a crop that exhibits strong characteristics with greater extensibility, compared to 2022 and the 5-year average.

Farinograph peak and stability times of 7.6 and 12.2 min, respectively, indicate the PNW-exportable crop is similar to 2022 and the 5-year average. Absorption values average 62.8%, down from 2022 and the 5-year average.

The average Alveograph P/L ratio is 0.68 compared to 0.74 in 2022, and the W-value is 384 (10-4 J), down from 396 last year.

The overall extensibility and resistance to extension of the 135-min Extensograph are 13.4 cm and 1001 BU, compared to 12.9 cm and 927 BU last year indicating slightly stronger, yet more extensible dough properties compared to last year.

The average loaf volume is 993 cc, above 940 cc in 2022, and 962 for a 5-year average.

Average bake absorption is 65.4%, lower than 2022 and the 5-year average.

2023 Gulf/Great Lakes-Exportable Overview and Highlights

The 2023 U.S. hard red spring crop grown in the eastern (Gulf/Great Lakes-exportable) region offers a nice balance of protein, strong dough characteristics and very good bake parameters. Overall, this is a highly functional crop.

The average grade is U.S. No. 1 Northern Spring (NS), with 95% of samples grading U.S. No. 1.

Average test weight is 61.7 lb/bu (81.2 kg/hl), lower than 2022 but similar to the 5-year average.

Average vitreous kernel (DHV) content is 44%, lower than last year’s 59% and the 5-year average of 65% due to late-season rain.

Wheat protein averages 14.3% (12% mb) with 21% of the surveyed crop below 13.5%, and 42% above 14.5%.

Average 1000 kernel weight (TKW) is 36.6 g, well above 2022 and the 5-year average.

Buhler Laboratory Mill flour yield averages 66.8, above 2022 but below the 5-year average. Lab mill settings are not adjusted to account for kernel parameter shifts between crop years. The extraction is calculated on a tempered wheat basis.

Average flour ash is 0.47%, similar to 2002, and lower than the 5-year average of 0.51%.

Wet gluten averages 33.2%, slightly lower than 2022 and the 5-year average.

Amylograph average of 566 BU is down from 2022 but similar to the 5-year average.

Dough properties suggest a stronger, slightly less extensible crop as compared to last year and the 5-year average.

Farinograph peak and stability times of 8.2 and 16.1 minutes respectively indicate the Gulf/Great Lakes-exportable crop is much stronger than average. Absorption values average 62.1%, down slightly from 2022, and similar to the 5-year average.

The average Alveograph P/L ratio is 0.78 compared to 0.63 for the 5-year average, and the W-value is 411 (10-4 J), compared to 388 for the 5-year average.

The overall extensibility and resistance to extension of the 135-min Extensograph are 14.0 cm and 1171 BU, compared to 15.6 cm and 743 BU last year indicating stronger, less extensible dough properties.

The average loaf volume is 971 cc, higher than 2022, and similar to the 5-year average.

Average bake absorption is 63.8%, significantly lower than 2022, and lower than the 5-year average.

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U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) brought a dozen pasta production specialists from around the world to North Dakota for a Northern Crops Institute (NCI) course designed to provide a better understanding of U.S. wheat and how wheat quality affects pasta quality. The course also helped attendees understand that, while pasta production is focused mostly on semolina from durum, pasta can be produced with other classes of U.S. wheat, such as hard red winter (HRW) and hard red spring (HRS).

The course took place a full two months before the upcoming World Pasta Day, which is Oct. 25. But the folks at NCI could argue they experienced a World Pasta Week – participants in the Aug. 21-25 course came from Morocco, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Mozambique, Chile, Mexico City, Honduras, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.

This short video produced by NCI features participants talking about the opportunity. It also features USW Regional Technical Director Peter Lloyd, who offered the course valuable insight into optimal milling processes for pasta.

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Flour milling companies from nine European countries made up a delegation that visited Washington, D.C. Sept. 24-28 to learn about the 2023 U.S. wheat crop and developments involving global markets, trade policy and emerging technologies.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) hosted the team, providing a series of presentations by USW staff and representatives of partner organizations.

Ian Flagg, USW Regional Vice President for European, Middle Eastern and North African Regions, right, greets a member of the delegation of European flour millers during meetings in Washington, D.C.

USW’s Ian Flagg, right, greets members of the European flour millers delegation and USW partner organizations during meetings in Washington, D.C.

Sharing Information

“Our efforts to increase U.S. wheat market share in Europe includes sharing information to major and larger mid-size mills and traders, many who are interested in hard red spring (HRS) and durum wheat,” said Ian Flagg, USW Regional Vice President for European, Middle Eastern and North African Regions. “Strategically, it’s important to work with agencies, milling associations and traders and discuss issues that are limiting European market access. At the same time, it’s a chance to talk about U.S. wheat and remind them about the advantages it offers milling companies and end-users.”

Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Slovenia, Lithuania, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Belgium were represented on the delegation. The visit is an initiative of the European Flour Millers Association that involves exploring different markets each year.

U.S. Durum, HRS Customers

Flagg welcomed its members to Washington and gave a broad overview of the U.S. wheat industry. About 70% of U.S. durum exports go to the EU, with Italy taking a large portion of that for pasta production, Flagg noted, adding that European countries import HRS from the U.S. mostly to blend with other wheat.

USW’s data shows that U.S. market share in the EU tends to vary from year to year, and in the past few years has swung from 17% to 33% for high protein milling wheat (mostly HRS) and from 18% to 28% for durum.

Crop Quality, Trade Policy Updates

Jim Peterson, Policy and Marketing Director for the North Dakota Wheat Commission, gave the delegation a U.S. wheat crop quality update. Other presenters included Ryan Caffery of CHS, who offered insights into both the opportunities and constraints involving the European market.

USW Vice President of Trade Policy Dalton Henry spoke about technology and government actions that affect wheat trade.

“It was great to talk with this group because, from a policy standpoint, there are many areas where we work together – namely on food safety and production technologies,” said Henry. “Having dialogue on those topics is critical, especially as new technologies come to market or regulations are being drafted as it gives us the best chance to prevent trade disruptions in the future.”

The team of flour millers representing nine European countries poses for a group photo during its visit to Washington, D.C.

Representatives of flour millers from nine European countries pose for a group photo during its visit to Washington, D.C.

Team Effort

USDA, the North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA), the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and the North American Millers’ Association (NAMA) each participated by in sharing related information about opportunities and issues they face.  

USW Vice President of Trade Policy Dalton Henry spoke about technology and government actions that affect wheat trade.

USW Vice President of Trade Policy Dalton Henry spoke about technology and government actions that affect wheat trade.

Along with Canada, competitors for U.S. HRS are high-protein Russian and Kazakh spring wheat, though export volumes are relatively small. Ukraine is another large supplier of wheat to the EU but is not considered a competitor for HRS due to its low and medium quality. Competitors for U.S. durum wheat are Canada, Russian, Kazakh, Australian and Mexico.

Tour of Facilities

Aside from meetings and presentations, USW offered the EU team a look at some U.S. milling facilities and a wholesale bakery. It toured Miller Milling in Westchester, Virginia, which produces a variety of durum and hard wheat products. It also services an adjacent pasta manufacturing facility. The visit to Uptown Bakers featured a look at its 40,000 square foot facility just outside of D.C. Uptown has more than 500 restaurants, hotels, and caterers as clients.

The team was also able to explore Chesapeake Farms, which is owned by Corteva Agriscience. The 3,300 acres of Chesapeake Farms are devoted to the development, evaluation, and demonstration of advanced agricultural practices.

 

 

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During the week of Sept. 25-29, U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor is leading an agribusiness trade mission to Chile. U.S. agribusinesses, including U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), are participating in business-to-business meetings with importers from both Chile and Peru.

The trade mission coincides with the USDA-endorsed Espacio Food and Service trade show, a major food show held in Santiago, Chile. USW joined several other U.S agricultural export promotional organizations in a USDA-SaborUSA Chile exhibit at the show. Under Secretary Taylor visited and offered remarks at the USW exhibit on Sept. 26. USW staff from the Santiago office shared these photos.

In the photo at the top of this page, USW Santiago Assistant Regional Director Osvaldo Seco and Program Coordinator Maria Fernanda Martinez show their pride in the USW exhibit with USW Baking Consultant Miguel Seguel.

Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor (right) is welcomed to the USW section of the SaborUSA Chile exhibit by USW Santiago Regional Director Miguel Galdos.

Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor (right) is welcomed to the USW section of the SaborUSA Chile exhibit by USW Santiago Regional Director Miguel Galdos.

Greetings from USDA

Under Secretary Taylor making remarks at the SaborUSA Chile exhibit on Sept. 26.

Under Secretary Taylor making remarks at the SaborUSA Chile exhibit on Sept. 26. Of her visit and the trade delegation she is leading, Taylor said, “As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of U.S.-Chile relations, I am honored to lead such an incredible group as we work with Chilean importers on expanding our bilateral trade even further.”

Quality Wheat, Exquisite Bread

Artisan bread baked by USW consultant Miguel Seguel to demonstrate the quality and versatility of flour milled from U.S. wheat classes

Artisan bread baked by USW consultant Miguel Seguel to demonstrate the quality and versatility of flour milled from U.S. wheat classes had a prominent place in the SaborUSA Chile exhibit at the Espacio Food and Service trade show.

Chile is a well-developed wheat food market with a variety of products available. In 2022, U.S. wheat imports were valued at more than $100 million. Chile is currently ranked among the top 10 U.S. wheat importing countries in marketing year 2023/24 (June to May). Chilean flour millers import U.S. hard red winter (HRW) and hard red spring (HRS) wheat classes to produce flour for bread consumption. The bread is produced mainly by small artisan bakeries, as well as commercial and supermarket bakeries. To serve a growing cookie and cracker demand, U.S. soft red winter (SRW) and soft white (SW) wheat is imported.

Read more about the Chilean market for U.S. agricultural products here.

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A business card to describe the jobs Art Schultheis fills in a typical year would be too big for any pocket.

“I drive a tractor and harvest with a combine – all the things people think a farmer does,” explained Schultheis, a fifth-generation farmer from Colton, Washington. “But behind the scenes I’m also a mechanic, I’m a bookkeeper, and, like most farmers, I have a whole long list of other jobs.”

Planning Ahead

On a late August afternoon, in a wheat field a dozen or so miles north of his home, Schultheis greeted a film crew (photo above) with a glance to the sky and a shrug. A soft rain had begun to fall, bringing that day’s harvest to a reluctant halt.

“I am not going to even try to predict it,” he announced to the film crew, while taking another glance upward. “But I think we may as well plan to get back at it tomorrow.”

Yet another job for Schultheis: planning strategist.

The film crew was commissioned by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), which is collecting “Stories of Stewardship” from wheat farmers across the country to highlight their efforts to produce high-quality crop using sustainable practices.

In August, the 61-year-old Schultheis was harvesting his 40th wheat crop. His diversified operation typically grows hard red winter (HRW), soft white winter (SRW), hard red spring (HRS), and hard white spring wheat. The farm has also produced barley, garbanzo beans, lentils, Kentucky bluegrass seed, oats, canola, and alfalfa. There are also 10 beef cows to take care of.

Photo shows two men, farmers, standing next to each other and looking to the left side of the photo; in the background there is a tractor pulling a wagon through a golden wheat field.

Colton, Washington, farmers Art Schultheis, right, and his son Kyle Schultheis.

An Eye to the Future

Schultheis took over Diamond S Farms from his father more than three decades ago. With an eye to the future, his son Kyle has returned to the farm and is being mentored to one day take over all his father’s jobs. Bringing Kyle into the mix is part of the family’s approach to sustainability.

“To me, there are three parts to sustainability,” Schultheis explained. “Number one is I want to leave the land in better shape than when I started farming. Number two is my farm must be profitable. If you are not profitable, you are not sustainable. Number three is that you need a succession plan for your farm to continue to operate through generations.”

As the film crew set up the next morning to capture his story, Schultheis pointed out that sustainability is second nature to him and all other farmers.

“We have always cared for the land, but now we have tools that we never had decades ago,” he said. “We can do things today that we could not do in the past, and the soil keeps producing at higher and higher levels. One of my hopes for Kyle is that when I’m gone, he can stand here and say he learned things from me and makes the land even better than it will be once I call it quits.”

USW’s Stories of Stewardship series will be available for all to see and explore. It is expected to be of special interest to customers of U.S. wheat around the world.

Responsible as Possible

“I think consumers here in the United States and across the world are asking questions about where their food comes from,” said Schultheis. “On our farm, we do not raise commodities, we are raising food. And we need to be as responsible as possible because we know the end-consumer is making that connection between where food comes from and how it is produced. To be honest, it makes my job a lot more fun.”

And by his “job,” Schultheis means every single one of them.

 

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Wheat buyers from Nigeria and Kenya join North Dakota farmer Scott Huso in one of his fields to get a look at this year's crop.

Wheat buyers from Nigeria and Kenya join North Dakota Wheat Commissioner and farmer Scott Huso in one of his fields to get a look at this year’s crop.

Pictured above at the Port of Duluth in Minnesota: Chad Wiegand, USW Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa; Vigneswaran Sinnathurai, Vice President of Milling at Olam; Alok Khator, Vice President and Regional Manufacturing Head at Olam; Savan Sunil Shah, Director at United Millers LTD; Coreen Berdahl, Vice President of Operations at Minnesota Wheat.

Buyers from two African markets that are very different – yet equally important to U.S. wheat farmers – recently took a close look at the hard red winter (HRW), hard red spring (HRS) and hard white (HW) wheat supply chain by visiting farms and facilities in Kansas, North Dakota and Minnesota.

Led by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), the trade team included representatives of companies in Nigeria and Kenya. Nigeria is an established customer and the fourth-largest importer of U.S. wheat. Kenya, a developing market that has seen a steady increase in wheat foods consumption, holds great potential for U.S. wheat.

Farm to Export Elevator

The team was able to follow the entire process of how U.S. wheat moves from farm to export elevator.

“Our goal was to show them the U.S. supply chain. We also wanted to explain how the quality of wheat grown in the states is monitored through the inspection process,” said Chad Weigand, USW Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa. “These visits are very important to customers in Africa who want to be assured they are getting the quality they want. We have competition in these markets, and face-to-face visits go a long way in providing trust and confidence in wheat from the U.S.”

Those face-to-face visits included meeting farmers. Kansas Wheat, an important USW partner, hosted the African team for visits with wheat growers and stops at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center and USDA’s Center for Grain and Animal Health Research. During a visit to the IGP Institute, the team learned about technical training and assistance programs. A commercial flour mill in McPherson was also a key aspect of the visit.

Kansas Wheat hosted the African team for meetings and visits to learn about the U.S. wheat supply chain.

Kansas Wheat hosted the African team to showcase the U.S. wheat supply chain. Pictured (left to right) are Kansas Wheat Vice President of Research and Operations Aaron Harries; Savan Sunil Shah; Vigneswaran Sinnathurai; and Chad Weigand.

Building Upon a Solid Base

Flour milling training is an important part of USW’s efforts in Africa.

“We provide a lot of help to the flour milling industry there, particularly by working with up-and-coming millers who are just learning the trade,” explained Weigand. “By providing technical assistance in grain analysis, test milling, flour analysis and test baking, U.S. Wheat is helping grow the milling industry. It increases millers’ knowledge of U.S. wheat classes. Ultimately, the purpose is to show advantages of each U.S. class over competitors’ wheat. We also work with the flour industry to address trade policies – things like import requirements and other market access issues.”

In Kansas, the team also made a stop at the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) facility in Kansas City.

Before Kansas, the team met with wheat farmers and received an update from the Northern Crops Institute (NCI) in North Dakota.  The Minnesota portion included meetings with grain traders at CHS and a tour of port loading facilities in Duluth. Coreen Berdahl, Vice President of Operations at Minnesota Wheat, participated in the Minnesota.

Supply Situation Updates

Farmers and representatives from Kansas Wheat acknowledged that Nigeria and Kenya will be limited by the short supply of HRW wheat this year. But building and maintaining relationships is important to global customers.

“Harvest results may differ from year-to-year, but coordinating local visits directly connects our customers with farmers committed to growing high-quality wheat,” said Aaron Harries, Vice President of Research and Operations for Kansas Wheat. “Wheat buyers, millers, and bakers track the progress of our wheat crop each year. Moving past the headlines is important to communicating the quantity and quality of each year’s harvest.”

On its final night in Kansas, the African trade team was hosted at a dinner, where buyers from Nigeria and Kenya were able to meet with Kansas Wheat staff and U.S. wheat farmers, including USW Chairman Michael Peters of Oklahoma.

On its final night in Kansas, the African trade team was hosted at a dinner, where buyers from Nigeria and Kenya were able to meet with Kansas Wheat staff and U.S. wheat farmers, including USW Chairman Michael Peters of Oklahoma.

Markets Differ, Both Have Potential

The U.S. has been the top wheat supplier to Nigeria in two of the past five years. Nigeria has been the largest buyer of HW and second-largest buyer of HRW.

In 2021/22, U.S. wheat exports to Nigeria increased to 1.63 million metric tons (MT) and the U.S. market share was 30%. But high prices have hurt trade in 2023.

Kenya, on the other hand, is seeing growth in wheat demand due to increased urbanization. New products are being introduced and branded for specific end-uses:  chapati flour, mandazi flour, self-rising flour, and others.

Most of the wheat flour in Kenya is used for home baking of chapatti (flat bread).

As both the Nigerian and Kenyan markets evolve, USW plans to share information about U.S. wheat’s quality and reliability.

“We will continue working on relationships and sharing information about the quality and reliability of U.S. wheat,” said Weigand. “We will also demonstrate to millers, bakers and end-product manufacturers the advantages of all six classes of wheat as stand-alone or blending wheats to reduce costs by displacing competitor wheats.”

This article includes information previously shared in an article by Kansas Wheat.

 

 

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As the geopolitical conflict between Russia and Ukraine comes back into focus following the attacks on port infrastructure in the Ukrainian Black Sea ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk, and the terminals along the Danube River, wheat market volatility remains an ever-present risk.

Despite the recent swings, export basis trends can help provide clues to potential buying opportunities for U.S. wheat classes. In recent months, we have seen Pacific Northwest (PNW) hard red spring wheat (HRS) export basis erode from $1.75 per bushel ($64.30 per metric ton) in November 2022 to $0.80 ($29.40) in July 2023. Considering the recent drifts, this article will investigate the PNW HRS basis trend and provide additional context around the weakening basis.

A line chart showing export basis in dollars per bushel of wheat indicates basis has declined $1.75 per bushel since December 2022.

PNW HRS basis has drifted down since the start of 2023, recently hitting lows not seen since 2007, hovering 90 cents below last year’s level. Below average basis poses a unique opportunity for those interested in purchasing PNW HRS. Source: U.S. Wheat Associates Price Report.

Slow Demand Meets Seasonal Weakness

Otherwise known as the difference between the free on board (FOB) cash price and the futures price, export basis encompasses transportation costs, storage, and supply and demand at the regional level (e.g., farmer sales, local demand), and can fluctuate based on seasonality. In the pre-harvest months, basis generally weakens as the market looks to the influx of new crop stocks. Though a weaker basis is common for this period, unique to this year, the pace of farmer selling has remained slow. Throughout 2023, exporters noted low farmer sales, and USDA’s June Grain Stocks report noted on-farm stocks increased 34% from the year prior. In the last few weeks, farmer sales increased with the increased volume helping drive down basis.

Meanwhile, demand for U.S. wheat has also been relatively light. In 2022/23, commercial U.S. wheat sales were 20.7 MMT, down 4% from the year prior. So far in 2023/24, the U.S. export pace remains slow, tracking 32% behind last year at the same time.

The combined impact of seasonal weakness, the release of farmer-held stocks, and slow export demand have quickly eroded basis. Last week’s basis level of $0.75 ($27.56) signifies the weakest PNW HRS basis since July 2007. For this time of year, the current basis level is 51% below the ten-year average and down 90 cents per bushel from last year. The historically low basis level presents an opportunity for U.S. wheat importers to make purchases of HRS from the PNW or to lock in a low basis contract.

A line chart showing market volatility related to geopolitical tensions in the U.S. wheat futures markets and prices.

Wheat futures continue to fluctuate based on the global supply and demand situation and the erratic influences of geopolitics, weather. The most recent example is the response to the airstrikes in Ukraine last week. CBOT futures closed limit up at $7.57/bu; however, by the end of the week, CBOT futures were down 53 cents at $7.04/bu. Source: U.S. Wheat Associates Price Charting Tool.

With Proper Risk Management Opportunity Awaits

Despite the historically low basis, volatility presents a risk in the market. On July 24, Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) wheat futures were limit up in response to the airstrikes in Ukraine, closing at $7.57/bu; however, by the end of the week, CBOT futures were down 53 cents at $7.04/bu.

Every marketing year presents new challenges and opportunities for buyers of U.S. wheat, and this year is no exception. Markets are volatile, but unique buying opportunities continue to arise. With proper risk mitigation, U.S. wheat importers can capitalize on opportunities for purchasing U.S. wheat and maximize the value of U.S. wheat classes, even in unpredictable times. Contact your local U.S. Wheat Associates office for more individualized information on risk mitigation strategies for your business and opportunities for U.S. wheat.

By U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Market Analyst Tyllor Ledford.

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USW Director of Trade Policy Peter Laudeman during one of the many stops on the 2023 Spring Wheat and Durum Tour across North Dakota.

USW Director of Trade Policy Peter Laudeman during one of the many stops on the 2023 Spring Wheat and Durum Tour across North Dakota.

Participating in the Wheat Quality Council’s Spring and Durum Wheat Tour for the first time, U.S. Wheat Associates’ (USW) Peter Laudeman was eager to discover what he could learn about the 2023 crop across an important section of the Northern Plains.

He wasn’t disappointed.

The tour, which included examination of more than 300 spring wheat and durum fields in North Dakota and western Minnesota, was supplemented by information about the timing of the current crop, along with the weather patterns that affect it.

“Overall, we saw a wide variety of crop conditions, with the conditions and maturity largely depending on planting dates,” reported Laudeman, USW’s Director of Trade Policy. “In general, the later planted wheat looked like it may have better potential as long as it has enough time to mature.”

Production. Process and People

Not only did Laudeman experience differing field conditions on the Wheat Quality Council’s Spring Wheat Tour, he was also able to participate in the analytics: those on the tour were asked to write down details and measurements from each field, with those measurements used to help formulate yield estimates.

Importantly, he was also able to interact with a sizeable cross-section of the U.S. wheat industry.

“There was a diverse variety of people from across the wheat value chain, many who were getting into wheat fields for the first time,” Laudeman explained. “It was especially great to see so many participants from the USDA, including representatives from the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) who will be able to use their experience with the tour as a concrete proof point in their work with overseas customers for U.S. commodity exports.”

The tour included the examination of more than 300 spring wheat and durum fields in North Dakota and western Minnesota. It was supplemented by information about the timing of the current crop, along with the weather patterns that affect it.

The tour included the examination of more than 300 spring wheat and durum fields in North Dakota and western Minnesota. It was supplemented by information about the timing of the current crop, along with the weather patterns that affect it.

2023 Crop Looks ‘Average’

The three-day tour wrapped up July 27 with presentations in Fargo by the Northern Crops Institute (NCI) at North Dakota State University (NDSU). Overall, reports from the tour indicate North Dakota wheat farmers later this summer will be harvesting an average crop with good quality. The tour estimated the average hard red spring wheat yield at 47.4 bushels per acre, a bit below the 2022 tour estimate of 49.1.

Tour is Important Tool

Wheat Quality Council Executive Vice President David Green, who organized the tour, said the event is all about providing insight and education.

“Along with calculating and estimating the crop’s potential, we also aim to educate people who are new to the industry, or even those in the industry who have not experienced this process,” said Green.

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As the 2023/24 marketing year begins, the market awaits the outlook for the new crop harvest. Despite early concerns anticipating wet conditions and late planting similar to the 2022 crop year, hard red spring (HRS) planting progress has surpassed expectations.

USDA NASS chart showing variable level of spring wheat planting as of June 1 for the years 2016 through 2022.

Though planting progress influences total production and yield, it is not predictive. Years with late planting can yield average crops, while rapid planting does not equate to good production potential. Factors such as soil moisture, weather, and disease pressure can significantly influence yield potential during crop development. Source: USDA NASS Data.

Rapid Planting Progress

Spring wheat farmers have made incredible planting progress after a historically snowy and cold winter delayed spring fieldwork in the Northern Plains. According to the USDA Crop Progress Report, as of June 4, 93% of the spring wheat was planted, up from 85% the week prior and even with the five-year average. In key HRS-producing states North Dakota, Montana, and Minnesota, USDA estimates plantings at 88%, 92%, and 98% complete, respectively. Over the last several weeks, rainfall has benefited soil moisture, and more recently, dry weather paired with above-normal temperatures helped accelerate planting progress. Between May 21 and May 28, 45% of the spring wheat crop was planted.

USDA NASS line graph showing spring wheat planting progress by week from 2018 through current 2023 date.

After a long winter with historic snowfall in the Northern Plains, 2023 planting (red dotted line) started late. As temperatures warmed rapidly, progress accelerated from several weeks behind to even with the five-year average. Source: USDA NASS Data.

A Hopeful Forecast

As spring wheat planting winds down, emergence hovers near the five-year average. As of June 4, spring wheat was 76% emerged, above the five-year average of 74%. The forecast predicts scattered showers for North Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana, a potential benefit to the newly planted HRS crop. Topsoil moisture in the top HRS producers remains good, with 72% boasting adequate to surplus moisture in North Dakota and 66% in Minnesota; meanwhile, drought removal is likely in much of Montana’s growing regions.

Map of precipitation in the United States the last week of May 2023 shows that wheat production regions including the Northern Plains have received sufficient rain to support planting progress and growth of the spring wheat crop.

Scattered showers have greatly benefited much of the U.S. wheat-growing regions, alleviating Montana’s drought and improving conditions in other key producing states. Source: USDA Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin.

Looking Ahead

The current outlook for HRS remains positive, though continued optimism hinges upon the weather’s cooperation. Recent warm temperatures helped jumpstart planting and emergence, but additional moisture will be necessary to sustain the current confidence levels.

In addition to weather, the underlying impacts of the tight HRS balance sheet and lingering price volatility due to the war in Ukraine will continue to influence the market. As the 2023/24 marketing year continues additional information regarding the production outlook will become available.

To be released on July 12, the July Crop Production Report and the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates will include USDA’s first by-class wheat production estimates. Until then, you can stay updated with the latest crop conditions and harvest progress via the U.S. Wheat Associates weekly Harvest Report.

By USW Market Analyst Tyllor Ledford