Following a year of dramatic volatility, several factors have pressured global wheat prices back to levels last seen before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022. There are several factors behind this trend. In this article, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) examines the tenacity of world wheat trade even in the face of serious market uncertainty.

In February 2022, Russia’s unprovoked invasion shook world markets, launching a season of unprecedented volatility and record prices across the agricultural sector. In response to Putin’s war, nearby Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) wheat futures soared to $14.25/bu. Combined with record global consumption, production shortfalls, and a tightening global balance sheet, the war cast a shadow of uncertainty over the grain industry.

In May 2022, the market rallied yet again when India banned wheat exports, just days after Indian government officials assured world buyers that India would lead the charge to offset the supplies from the Black Sea and help tamp global food price inflation. CBOT wheat futures once again touched record highs of $12.77/bu.

Line graph shows how U.S. HRW, HRS and SRW wheat futures prices have changed from early 2022 through early 2023.

Volatility has been apparent in CBOT Wheat futures, Kansas City Board of Trade (KCBOT) Hard Red Winter wheat futures, and Minneapolis Grains Exchange (MGEX) Hard Red Spring wheat futures since the invasion. Source: U.S. Wheat Associates Price Charting Tool

A Black Sea Breakthrough

Flash forward to July 2022, when Russia and Ukraine, with support from the United Nations and Turkey, agreed to the Black Sea grain corridor and created the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) to facilitate exports for the region. The agreement allowed supplies trapped in Russia and Ukraine to re-enter the world market, and in response, wheat futures eased 37% from the spring’s highs.

Bar chart shows Russian wheat production, export sales and other information using data from USDA.

Russian wheat production increased by 21% from 2021, and exports are expected to increase by 30% on the year. Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates.

Return to Pre-War Prices

In the months since the corridor was implemented, wheat futures have continued falling to pre-war levels. The downward pressure of steady, low-priced Black Sea wheat exports remains the primary driver. According to JCC data, since the corridor’s inception, 5.1 MMT of wheat have been shipped from Ukraine. As for Russian exports, the January U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates pegged Russian wheat production at 91.0 MMT, though some private sector forecasts are upwards of 104.0 MMT. With record production, Russian exports are expected to reach 43.0 MMT, 17% above the five-year average.

A record crop from Australia has also helped ease some global supply concerns. The Australian wheat crop is rumored to reach nearly 42.0 MMT, though USDA estimates hover at 36.6 MMT.

On the domestic front, the USDA Winter Wheat and Canola Seedings Report increased 2023 winter wheat acres by 11% from 2022 to 14.9 million hectares. The combined impact of the ample Black Sea supplies and improved outlook in several major exporters has helped turn the wheat market back to buyers.

Bar chart of data from USDA shows global wheat production and global wheat use over the past 10 years.

For the third year in a row, world wheat consumption has outpaced production, even though global wheat production hit a record 781.3 MMT in 2022/23. Wheat is drawn from ending stocks to meet global demand. Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates.

What Comes Next?

Market sentiment has become increasingly bearish and prices have significantly dipped in the buyer’s favor; however, many unknowns linger in the market. The underlying uncertainty of Putin’s war will continue to support the market. As seen in October, when Russia threatened to pull out of the Black Sea Grain initiative, prices spiked in response to the threat. In more recent news, on Jan. 25 a Russian missel struck a Turkish cargo ship in the port of Kherson in Ukraine, also sending futures momentarily higher. Volatility is a concern for as long as the war continues. Global balance sheets will also remain tight into the new crop year, and global wheat consumption continues to outpace production. Another factor, though not unique to this year, the weather will continue to play a significant role in prices as markets closely monitor the drought afflicted Argentine wheat crop and HRW conditions in the U.S. Central and Southern Plains.

By USW Market Analyst Tyllor Ledford



USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will publish its first official estimate of U.S. winter wheat planted area for the 2023/24 crop on Jan. 12, 2023. Along with U.S. wheat importing customers, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) will be watching trade estimates before the report is issued and make some comparisons to NASS estimates in 2022.

USDA’s Economic Research Service has noted that “the general downward trend in U.S. wheat plantings over the last two decades is attributable to lower relative returns for wheat, changes in Government programs that give farmers more planting flexibility, and increased competition in global wheat markets.”

The past three marketing years, however, have seen a slight change in that trend.

At planting time in 2022, the relatively high farm gate prices for hard red winter (HRW), soft red winter (SRW) and white winter wheat (including winter soft white and hard white) provided some incentive to plant more winter wheat. Looking ahead, the pre-report predictions to date for total winter wheat planted area of between 34 million acres (MA) and 36 MA are both higher than the final 2022 crop NASS estimate of 33.27 MA. A survey of traders by Bloomberg posted Jan. 9 estimated total winter wheat planted area at 34.5 MA.

More Planted Acres Expected

Wheat analyst Jeffery McPike with WASEDA Commodities and McWheat Trading Inc., recently pegged that group’s initial 2023 planted area forecast at 35.7 MA that, if realized, would be a 7.3% increase over NASS’s final 2022 estimate. The high end of estimates in Bloomberg’s survey is 36.2 MA.

The group’s forecast of 24.8 MA for HRW planted area is 7% more than the final NASS 2022 estimate based mainly on expected gains in the Central and Southern Plains. The Bloomberg trader survey estimate averaged 23.9 MA.

McPike said the group is bullish on SRW planted area with a forecast of 7.22 MA, which is 11% more than NASS’ final 2022 estimate. For example, an Arkansas Extension official recently reported that “good prices and a relatively dry fall likely encouraged farmers to plant more winter wheat for a 2023 harvest. Early estimates are that winter wheat acres in Arkansas will be up 25% to 30% from last year.” Traders surveyed by Bloomberg estimate the average at 6.9 MA.

The group sees only a slight uptick in white winter wheat planted area to 3.65 MA. The Bloomberg trader estimate average was 3.7 MA. The January 2022 NASS estimate for winter white planted area was 3.56 MA.

Bar chart depicting USDA's estimates of U.S. wheat planted area from 2013 through 2022, by wheat class.

Change in Direction. Compared to the general downward trend in U.S. wheat planted area, higher wheat prices for farmers have provided an incentive to plant more wheat the past three marketing years. Planted area for the three winter wheat classes (HRW, SRW and white winter) are all up since 2019/20. Note that “White” wheat on this chart includes spring-planted soft white wheat.

And Watch Harvested Area and Production Estimates

NASS will adjust its winter wheat planted area forecast throughout 2023. And, as McPike pointed out, the currently unknown harvested area, along with production estimates, will be  major price determinants. For example, compare the final 2022 NASS estimate of HRW planted area of 33.89 MA to final harvested area of 24.05 MA.

“After the NASS figure is published and gets digested, the market will likely quickly move to winterkill issues (again) in the U.S., Europe, and the Black Sea regions,” McPike said, “and harvested area discussions, along with the many macro issues that continue to roil the markets.”

The annual NASS Winter Wheat Seedings report will be published here:,

An additional source of information is the USDA Economic Research Service December 2022 Wheat Outlook published at


USDA released its December World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report Dec. 9, 2022, that included no substantial changes for global and domestic wheat markets. Given the overall volatility in 2022, a somewhat calming report was probably a blessing in disguise for wheat buyers who should, however, keep an eye on declining global stocks and exportable supplies.

Each month, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) updates a graphic summary the WASDE report that includes global wheat market factors, major country and regional export history, and U.S. wheat supply and demand summaries by class. Readers can review the report online here. Some highlights from the December report follow.

Stocks to Fall

Based on USDA’s latest global wheat production estimate of 781 million metric tons (MMT) and total use of 790 MMT, marketing year 2022/23 will be the third in a row and the fourth in the last five years in which use has exceeded production.

The WASDE report included a 500,000 metric ton drop in estimated global ending wheat stocks to 267.3 MMT. If realized, those supplies will be the lowest since 2013/14. Of that total, an estimated 54.5 MMT will be found in “Exporter” countries, 68.4 MMT will be in “Importer” countries and 144 MMT will be in China. That means 54% of global ending stocks are locked out of world trade, an amount that is up from USDA’s estimate of about 51% in December 2021.

Bar chart showing the global wheat Ending Stocks to Use ratios since 13/14.

Locked in China. Global wheat stocks-to-use ratios are much lower when China’s 144 MMT of wheat stocks are removed from the equation. The down-trend is clear and has accelerated since 2019/20. The current stocks-to-use ratio of 19% without China, which does not export wheat, is the  lowest level in more than 10 years. Source: USDA, U.S. Wheat Associates.

Given the poor condition of the Argentina wheat crop, USDA lowered ending stocks there by 500,000 metric tons, but increased European and Australian ending stocks. Analysts were somewhat surprised USDA did not change its 91 MMT estimate of Russian wheat production.

While USDA did not change its U.S. ending stocks estimate of 15.54 MMT in the latest WASDE report, it is the lowest U.S. ending stocks since marketing year 2007/08. Buyers that were in the market that year will remember the stunning run up in wheat prices fueled by extremely low global stocks. At one point that year, only a few weeks of world wheat supplies were available.

Low Exportable Supplies

In a video presentation on World Wheat Supply and Demand recorded for 2022 USW Crop Quality Seminars, USW Vice President and West Coast Office Director Steve Wirsching showed that ending stocks among exporting countries have declined significantly over the past five years.

“When exporters hold so few stocks, this increases market volatility and leads to higher wheat prices,” Wirsching said. A condition made even more uncertain by Russia’s on-going incursion into Ukraine.

Data from USDA's December WASDE report show wheat stocks are down, trade is up and use is up in 2022.

Wheat’s Balance Sheet. Data from USDA reflects the trend behind higher global wheat prices: falling supplies, increased trade and record demand year-over-year.

Trade Volume to Increase

The world wheat trade estimate increased in December by 2.2 MMT to 210.9 MMT. December’s report suggests higher exports from Ukraine, Russia and the EU. While expecting Australia’s exports to reach 27.5 MMT, almost a record volume, USDA also noted that a significant portion of Australia’s exports will be for animal feed following harvest rain and lower quality in New South Wales. The world total estimated exports and imports for the year now stands at 211 MMT

USDA did not change its U.S. wheat export volume estimate of 21.1 MMT, with slightly lower soft red winter (SRW) offsetting slightly higher hard red spring (HRW) and soft white (SW) exports.

USW Vice President for Overseas Operations Mike Spier (far right) and Regional Vice President for South Asia Joe Sowers greet attendees at the 2022 USW Crop Quality Seminar in Manila.

USW Vice President for Overseas Operations Mike Spier (far right) and Regional Vice President for South Asia Joe Sowers (center) greet attendees at the 2022 USW Crop Quality Seminar in Manila.

Crop Quality Seminars presented by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) concluded this week with a universal response by customers in every corner of the world: They are impressed by the high quality of the 2022 crop across all six wheat classes but concerned about the sustained higher prices.

One other common opinion: Those attending in-person seminars were happy to meet USW staff and U.S. wheat producers face-to-face.

“It was great to have a number of U.S. producers sharing their stories and interacting with customers,” reported Tyllor Ledford, Assistant Director in USW’s Portland office, who was part of the U.S. wheat team that presented in South Asia. “There was some great dialogue between the farmers and customers about production practices and risk management topics. And obviously, there was a lot of interaction and feedback on this year’s wheat crop.”

A big part of USW’s effort to communicate supply, demand and crop quality information to wheat buying and milling groups, the annual seminars took place throughout November. Separate in-person or hybrid (in-person and virtual) seminars were conducted in South Asia, Central America, South America, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the European Union (EU). Virtual seminars were conducted in China, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan with support from videotaped crop quality presentations.

“We had a good turnout in the EU, with a lot of questions about this year’s crop and a lot of interest in future crops,” said USW Vice President of Programs Erica Oakley, who partnered with the USW EU Regional Office in Rotterdam and Erica Olson of the North Dakota Wheat Commission to lead seminars in Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and Portugal. “Everyone was very pleased with the wheat crop and what we presented, but higher prices remain a concern.”

USW Secretary Treasurer Clark Hamilton (at podium) and Dave Green, Executive Vice President, Wheat Quality Council, present at the USW 2022 Crop Quality Seminar in Bangkok, Thailand.

USW Secretary Treasurer Clark Hamilton (at podium) and Dave Green, Executive Vice President, Wheat Quality Council, present at the USW 2022 Crop Quality Seminar in Bangkok, Thailand.

In the MENA region, seminars were held in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco. USW Regional Technical Manager Peter Lloyd said the uncertainty of the Ukraine-Russia conflict and the future of the Black Sea Grain Initiative weighed heavily in the discussion.

“Overall, participants were impressed by the high quality of this year’s U.S. wheat harvest, but the strong U.S. dollar and high freight rates are not helping the prices affecting the region,” Lloyd said. “We will likely be helping our customers deal with a reduced availability of high-protein wheat in the next marketing year.”

In South America, seminars in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile also attracted buyers and millers eager to learn about the 2022 crop. There were curiosities about potential U.S. transportation problems and how it may affect U.S. wheat exports in the future.

USW staff and partners pose for a photo with a group of U.S. wheat customers during a 2022 Crop Quality Seminar in Quito, Ecuador on Nov. 10.

USW staff and representatives of partner organizations pose for a photo with a group of U.S. wheat customers in South America during a Crop Quality Seminar held Nov. 10 in Quito, Ecuador.

“There were questions about ongoing drought and transportation issues, such as the Mississippi River barge situation and the potential railroad strike in the U.S.,” explained Miguel Galdos, USW Regional Director in Southern America. “That, of course, is based on the concerns about pricing. As far as the crop quality, attendees were pleased with the U.S. crop this year, especially the baking quality of hard red winter wheat.”

The South Asia seminars conducted in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines featured USW staff and a seven-member USW board team that shared information about their farm operations.

“Millers meeting with U.S. wheat producers is vital to promoting our product,” said Joe Sowers, USW Regional Vice Present for South Asia. “Discussions about challenges and opportunities on each side of the wheat industry provide great insight into the value of U.S. wheat, which is a primary goal of the seminars each year.”

The 2022 USW Crop Quality Report and by-class reports can be found here.


With a significant decline in U.S. wheat production, the September 30, 2022, the USDA/NASS Small Grains Summary report took many wheat traders and analysts by surprise. The report estimated total production at 44.91 million metric tons (MMT) 1.65 billion bushels of total U.S. wheat production, down 3.62 MMT from August estimates.

The quarterly report is the culminating outlook for the U.S. wheat crop and follows the Grain Stocks report in January, the Prospective Plantings report released in March, and the Acreage Report released in June.

An article in  Farm Futures, noted that all the pre-report trader estimates missed the mark except for white wheat production. Wheat futures rallied after USDA released the Small Grains Summary. December 2022 Chicago soft red winter futures closed 3% higher on the tighter outlook. Kansas City and Minneapolis exchanges were also higher. Reflecting the now apparently standard volatility, futures prices then retreated as speculators adjusted their market positions at the start of the new month.

Behind the Production Drop

U.S. wheat farmers faced many obstacles this year. Hard red winter (HRW) farmers experienced prolonged hot and dry conditions in the lower Plains states, especially Kansas, Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, and Colorado. In the upper Plains states, hard red spring (HRS) farmers faced heavy rain and cool temperatures early in the planting season, causing planting delays and ultimately lowering the amount of spring wheat area planted this year, offset a bit by an increase in harvested area compared to the 2021 drought year.

USDA-NASS data on changes to production, yield and stocks for winter wheat from the 2022 Small Grains Summary

Drought in parts of the southern and central hard red winter wheat production region and other factors prompted USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) to make a substantial reduction in total 2022 U.S. wheat production in its Sept. 20 Small Grains Summary.

The Small Grain Summary showed an improved yield when combining all wheat classes. The “All Wheat Classes” yield was up 5% from 2021 at 46.5 bushels per acre (bu/acre). The improved yield was boosted by a dramatic recovery in spring wheat which the report recorded at 46.2 bu/acre compared to 32.6 bu/acre in 2021, a 42% improvement in yield. However, winter wheat yield was down 6% compared to 2021 at 47 bu/acre. Durum wheat also saw a significant improvement in yield year-over-year at 40.5 bu/acre up 64% compared to last year.

WASDE Reflects Changes

The USDA applied the revised production data from its Small Grains Summary in its October World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) on October 12. While 2022 production was lowered 3.62 MMT, beginning stocks were raised. Looking ahead, 2022 ending stocks were lowered, led by a 900,000 MT reduction in SRW stocks. The ending stocks estimate, pegged at 15.68 MMT, is down nearly 14% from last year and, if realized, would be the lowest since 2007/08. Exports were trimmed 1.09 MMT to 21.09 MMT, if realized this will be the lowest export total in over 50 years (noting that U.S. exports were 21.20 MMT in marketing year 2015/16).

New Information, Different Result

In keeping with the volatile pattern, despite USDA’s latest estimate reducing total U.S. and world wheat production, futures did not rally as they did after the Small Grain Summary. Instead, the Chicago December SRW contract was down 18 cents. Kansas City HRW was down 20 cents, and the Minneapolis HRS contract was down 18 cents. Including supply changes, this market is loaded with uncertainty, including the on-going conflict in Ukraine, the high value of the U.S. dollar relative to other currencies, and news of challenging weather conditions here in the United States and other wheat exporting countries. As always, your local U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) representatives are ready to help the world’s wheat buyers navigate these challenging conditions.

By USW Market Analyst Michael Anderson



Grain buyers have the unenviable task of sorting through today’s news and determining what it means for tomorrow’s prices. Experienced buyers have plenty of tools to help with their decisions, but the volatility experienced in 2022 may be embedded for the near future. Talk of a global recession may soften commodity prices initially, but just as quick, geopolitics can reverse any downward trend as we’ve seen the last two weeks.

U.S. wheat futures price chart for one year from October 2021 to late September 2022 showing volatility affecting the global wheat market

Volatility seems to be the new normal in global wheat markets. U.S. wheat futures prices over the past year clearly demonstrate that condition.

Global Supply

The global balance sheet for wheat is down 10.0 MMT in 2022/23 compared to 2021/22 at 1.06 billion metric tons (MT). Beginning stocks this season are the lowest since 2017/18 while ending stocks are expected to be the tightest since 2016/17. Despite Russia’s huge wheat crop and rebounds in production for both the U.S. and Canada, reductions in the European Union (E.U.), Argentina, and Ukraine are helping to keep prices firm.

U.S. wheat production is up this year, increasing almost 4 MMT to 48.5 MMT according to USDA. Exports are expected to increase slightly to 22.5 MMT. According to the latest world agricultural supply and demand estimates (WASDE), production for all classes of U.S. wheat is expected to increase this year except for hard red winter (HRW) wheat which is estimated down 21%. Kansas, the primary HRW growing state, remains dry even as winter wheat planting is underway.

Black Sea Grain Corridor

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had the biggest effect on upending the global wheat market. The United Nations brokered an agreement to establish a grain corridor in the Black Sea. As a result, Ukraine has shipped more than 7 MMT of grain since July, when the agreement was signed according to APK. However, Putin’s criticism of the grain deal and escalation of the war on his neighbor have once again roiled markets and sent futures higher.

The multilateral agreement establishing the grain corridor will expire in November. Given the Russian president’s unpredictable actions so far, there is no guarantee that the agreement will be renewed.

Russian Potential

Russia has produced its largest wheat crops ever. The USDA forecasts Russian wheat production at 91 MMT this month while the European Union’s crop monitoring service, MARS, projects the Russian wheat crop will total 95 MMT. The USDA predicts exports could reach 42 MMT. But Russian exports so far this season have been slow to move. According to IKAR, a Russian analyst, Russian wheat exports are expected to reach 4 MMT in September, well behind the 4.7 MMT exported a year ago. Russian wheat exports are not under any western backed trade sanctions, but shipping companies, insurers, and banks are still cautious to do business with Russia.

Additionally, heavy rain in the central and southern areas of the country is delaying plantings. SovEcon reported that 8.6 million hectares (21.2 million acres) of grain had been sown so far, 1.5 million hectares (3.7 million acres) behind their pace a year ago. The consultancy added that it’s the lowest area planted since 2013.

Dependability of Supply

India also played its hand in driving global wheat futures higher. After initial pronouncements of feeding the world’s hungry, India quickly reversed course and blocked wheat exports. The country is expected to instead import 25,000 MT of wheat this year.

Input Costs

High gas prices could affect access to nitrogen-based fertilizers. Yara International, a Norwegian-based fertilizer producer warned that the gas situation in Europe could create shortages and add to risk. Gas prices on the continent have risen 45% since June when Russia curtailed shipments following E.U. sanctions. Yara said it expects to pay $1.1 billion more for natural gas in the third quarter than a year ago. Natural gas is a key ingredient for making nitrogen-based fertilizers.

U.S. dollar value indexed to a basket of currencies showing the general rise over the past year.

U.S. Dollar Value continues to rise against many different currencies, affecting the cost of dollar denominated wheat trade. In such an uncertain global wheat market, even minor changes in the dollar index are adding volatility.

The Rising U.S. Dollar

Overall, the U.S. Dollar (USD) continues to strengthen. Yet in this environment even subtle changes up or down in USD value can move U.S. and global wheat prices.

There is no shortage of headlines that directly affect the global wheat market. It is tough to say how much the road will curve in the near term. Grain buyers will remain busy absorbing the headlines as fast as they come.

By Michael Anderson, USW Market Analyst


This was supposed to be the year dry bulk freight vessel owners turned a profit, Jay O’Neil, a commodities consultant and author of a weekly transportation report recently commented. And U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) shared similar thoughts early in 2021. Instead, S&P Global Market Intelligence noted recently that freight rates for dry bulkers have fallen over the past three months after rates peaked earlier than expected in the second quarter of 2022.

As rates recently climbed, however, O’Neil said the freight market may have finally found its bottom.

Bearish Factors

Since early 2020, shipping has faced uncertainties: labor shortages, various COVID restrictions made worse by each country applying different restrictions, port congestion, and supply chain breakdowns have all competed to make shipping tough. The challenges to shipping logistics have abated. As a result, the number of available vessels floating in the dry bulk freight market has increased.

As China Goes…

China plays such a dominating role in the dry bulk shipping market that analyzing economic activity there can predict the dry bulk fleet’s prospects. China’s economic growth slowed under the government’s zero-COVID policy. The global iron ore trade, one aspect that drives the dry bulk fleet, was down 6% last month compared to a year ago. An analyst with S&P Global Market Intelligence said “slower than expected economic growth” could exist through the second half of 2023. O’Neil covered bearish factors for the dry bulk freight market for USW’s 2021 Crop Quality report.

Russian Coal

Putin’s war in Ukraine has also rerouted some cargo flows and driven up demand for coal, another commodity that absorbs dry bulk shipping capacity. Sanctions on Russian gas supplies have quickly reversed European Union plans to close many coal-fired plants. While the E.U. looks to the United States for coal imports, India and China are taking advantage of cheap Russian coal and changing demand for different bulker size categories.

Another key component that helped bring down dry bulk shipping rates is the easing of port congestion.

“Inefficiencies of last year do not apply to the current market anymore and the supply-demand equation is more straightforward,” said one ship owner. AXS said a primary driver behind the lower rates is the drop in ton-miles.

Overall, Breakwave Advisors, a shipping publication, agreed saying, “Following a period of high uncertainty and significant disruptions across the commodity spectrum, the gradual normalization of trade is shifting the market’s attention back to the traditional demand and supply dynamics that have shaped dry bulk profitability for decades.”

This was all good news for dry bulk freight customers, including the world’s wheat buyers.

Line chart shows the Baltic Dry Index change from April 2022 to September 2022

Stormy Seas for Dry Bulk Freight. After peaking in the second quarter of 2022, the Baltic Exchange Dry Index retreated before bouncing up in September. Some suggest the market found a bottom, yet bearish economic factors continue.

Turning Tides

Yet signs of rate recovery are evident. The Baltic Index on September 9 notched its largest weekly increase in 8 years, according to Reuters data. The index was up 12% to 1,213. On September 12, the Baltic Index marked its fourth consecutive session of gain. AgriCensus, in a story published on August 31, noted that the purchasing managers’ index (PMI) rose to 49.4 in August, up 0.4 compared to July. But still, the index remained below the 50-point mark which separates contraction from growth.

Despite the current strengthening in the shipping index, generally bearish factors affecting dry bulk freight rates such as China’s economic situation remain. Those that follow the market closely say that rebound may simply be a market correction. For now, it seems like vessel owners may have to wait longer before turning that profit that many predicted not long ago.

By Michael Anderson, USW Market Analyst


An online training series developed by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) in the early days of the COVID pandemic continues to have success in its effort to educate South American bakers and millers about the value and quality of U.S. wheat.

Specifically, the Online Baking Certification program promotes baking methods and processes that highlight all six U.S. wheat classes. What is significant about the program is that it’s able to reach a large number of bakery and milling staff who otherwise would not be able to take part in educational workshops. The virtual format allows participants to study at their own pace before testing through a handful of modules to earn certification.

Funded by the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP) – a USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) program created in 2018 to help U.S. agricultural exporters enhance their work in international markets and mitigate other obstacles to trade – USW’s online trainings have made great strides toward reaching the goal of boosting awareness of U.S. wheat.

Bakers and millers in Colombia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia and Brazil have been getting a thorough introduction to U.S. wheat and are learning how they can utilize it to improve the quality of breads and other baked goods.

The goal for U.S. wheat is ambitious yet simple: Sharing ways to improve baked products made with U.S. wheat could result in increased consumption in South America, which could lead to more customers for South America’s bakeries.

It could also potentially lead to a greater demand for U.S. wheat.

Putting U.S. Wheat ‘Top of Mind’

USW's Online Baking Certification program build's upon an effort to create awareness of U.S. wheat in South America. Pictured here is an in-person workshop conducted in USW's Santiago office in 2019, prior to the COVID pandemic.

USW’s Online Baking Certification program builds upon an ongoing effort to create awareness of U.S. wheat’s value and quality in South America. Pictured here is an in-person workshop conducted in USW’s Santiago office in 2019, prior to the COVID pandemic.

Miguel Galdos, USW’s regional director in South America, says the goal of the Online Baking Certification program is to create better awareness of U.S. wheat.

“We want U.S. wheat to be top of mind for more bakers in the region, as well as for the technical staff at the milling companies,” he said. “We want to place a higher emphasis on reaching bakers

and technical people to perhaps give them a voice when it comes to wheat purchasing decisions.”

The fact that both bakers and milling staff are registering for the online course, too, is a sign that many in the industry want to take advantage of the opportunity to get experience working with U.S. wheat.

USW, the wheat industry’s export market development organization, works with wheat buyers, millers, bakers, food processors and government officials in more than 100 countries to promote the reliability and value of the six U.S. wheat classes. The new emphasis on creating awareness in South America and educate the people who work directly with wheat and wheat flour inside of bakeries is strategic.

Creating awareness – putting U.S. wheat top of mind of bakers – opens all kinds of opportunities.

“The key is that once they learn one aspect of U.S. wheat’s quality, they want to see what else there is to learn,” explained Galdos. “In this program, they must test out of one module to be able to move on to the next. Before earning the certification, they must complete a two-day practical course in person. Soon, after moving through the program, they are an expert on our product. At that point, U.S. wheat has developed a customer.”

Virtual Training has Become Commonplace

The virtual baking training includes six different modules that allow bakers and milling staff to progress at their own pace. Participants must pass a module to move on to the next, assuring they are exposed to all of U.S. wheat's positive attributes.

The Online Baking Certification program includes six different modules that allow bakers and milling staff to progress at their own pace. Participants must pass one module to move on to the next, assuring they are exposed to all of U.S. wheat’s many positive attributes.

Launched in October 2020 as an alternative to in-person training workshops during the height of the COVID pandemic, the Online Baking Certification program has grown rapidly. USW recently added a Portuguese version to the original Spanish version to attract more Brazilian participation. USW also has plans to add a master-level course in the near-future.

The current program has registered nearly 5,500 students in two years. Thanks to a partnership between U.S, Wheat Associates, the Brazilian Wheat Industry Association and the Brazilian Bakery and Confectionery Industry Association, further growth is expected.

The six South American countries targeted by USW are the six that purchase U.S. wheat.

“The biggest wheat buyer in Colombia has had 15 staff members go through the whole program and earn certification,” said Galdos. “Chile has been another active participant, so we are seeing interest from a good portion of the region. Brazil is promising. We have met with the millers and bakers’ associations and U.S. Wheat Associates is going to be recognized by those associations at an upcoming event.”

The birth of the program came by necessity after in-person trainings and workshops were eliminated because of COVID. By March 2020, USW’s staff in Santiago, Chile, were putting together educational materials to complete the online bakery course – courses featuring baking theory, video instruction and assessment platforms were assembled. USW Baking Consultant Didier Rosada played a key role in the production of baking videos for the modules, which were finished in May 2020 and then sent to selected baking staff around the region for testing.

Opportunity for a Competitive Edge

Those who have completed USW’s Online Baking Certification are reporting they gained greater knowledge of traditional baking methods that work well with U.S. wheat.

Miguel Galdos, USW regional director in South America

Miguel Galdos, USW regional director in South America

Galdos emphasized that the online courses provide U.S. wheat with an advantage over competing wheat growing and exporting countries.

One example is the value of U.S. hard red winter wheat compared to Canadian wheat.

“One thing we stress to the bakers in South America is that many of the products they are baking do not require Canadian wheat that is higher in protein but more expensive,” Galdos said. “U.S. hard red winter wheat is a better option, and the content in the online baking courses teach them why. We show them how to bake with it. The problem is that the bakers are not trained. We want more bakers in the region exposed to the value and quality of U.S. wheat and how using it can benefit their products and their businesses.”

Along with putting U.S. wheat top of mind for South American bakers, Galdos pointed out a valuable additional benefit to USW’s online baking program.

“Through this certification process we are working with bakeries, collaborating with millers, collaborating with the people who either are or could be buying and using U.S. wheat,” he said. “We are educating them and creating awareness for U.S. wheat. At the same time, we are building relationships.”


Before providing a simple and straightforward description of the global wheat and grain markets, Mike Krueger paused to consider a handful of variables facing importers, exporters and producers.

Then he used a word that is opposite of simple and straightforward.

“It’s complicated,” Krueger told those attending the 2022 U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) World Staff Conference August 23, 2022.

The quality and reliability of U.S. wheat has long created demand among importers, Krueger noted. Due to increased competition for acreage, political and economic strife in key regions and the potential for weather events to influence yields, Krueger expects demand will expand.

To put it simply: Export opportunities await U.S. wheat.

“A primary reason is that global wheat supplies are likely to shrink due to a renewed focus on soybeans and corn,” Krueger said. “Another factor favoring U.S. producers involves shipping and logistics limitations that hamper competing wheat-growing countries.”

Add in drought effects from a third consecutive La Niña? The effects would further pressure global supplies.

“These things are pushing more export demand for wheat,” Krueger explained. “Can the U.S. meet the demand? That’s a question that hasn’t been answered. will corn, soybeans or wheat be planted? Business decisions are made every single planting season. Our acres are limited.”

Effects of ‘Rush to Crush’

Krueger, a grain industry consultant with Lida Communications and owner of The Money Farm, has nearly 50 years of grain marketing and trading experience. He’s seen how world events and weather can spin wheat supply

Mike Krueger at U.S. Wheat Associates' World Staff Conference

Mike Krueger explains how a growing demand for renewable diesel in coming years will affect worldwide acreage dedicated to soybean production

and demand at the international level. During his “World Supply and Demand Update” presentation at the USW conference, Krueger reported conditions that are ripe for volatility that could continue for years.

“We have tight global supplies to begin with, and we also have a lot of issues that complicate things – including a war in the Black Sea region,” Krueger said, referring to the Ukraine-Russia battle that has the wheat industry keeping a close eye on the news. “Another thing is what we call the ‘Rush to Crush.’ The demand for renewable diesel and other renewable fuels is erasing vegetable oil supplies and that will dramatically boost demand for soybeans and canola. And a new interest in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is just one more item that will put pressure on soybean supplies.”

The Rush to Crush movement includes significant investment in soybean crushing facilities in the U.S., setting up a situation where farmers will be enticed to dedicate more acreage to soybeans. This while corn supplies remain tight everywhere, Krueger noted.

“It’s being estimated that perhaps 20 to 30 million more acres of soybeans would be needed to meet such demand, which certainly would be a huge factor in the competition for acreage that we already see,” Krueger said.

Corn seeded area is expected to ramp up as U.S. ethanol demand increases due to high gas prices and enhanced ethanol allowances. Corn exports by the U.S. could rise, too, as China’s surplus stock is typically overstated, according to Krueger.

All this while drought cut soybean production across South America and Brazil’s safrinha (second crop) corn production is smaller than what had initially been estimated.

Export Opportunities Await U.S. Wheat

Ukraine and Russia export roughly 30% of the world’s wheat – and Russia has a record crop under its belt – but the ongoing war is an intangible, Krueger pointed out.

Krueger emphasized how the quality and reliability of U.S. wheat helps create demand in the global marketplace

Krueger emphasized how the quality and reliability of U.S. wheat helps create demand in the global marketplace

“Russia has record production, yet the question is do they have the logistical capacity to export the crop – logistics on the Black Sea are a mess,” he said. “As for Ukraine, the war could really affect their production. Plus, it’s suspected that the amount of wheat that could come out of Ukraine is overstated. It’s really an unknown at this point.”

Where does this leave the U.S. wheat industry? Krueger summed it up with a series of questions, such as: Are there any supply “cushions” outside of Russia and Australia, which is also expecting increased production?

“None,” Krueger replied.

Will world consumption somehow contract? Krueger reminded everyone that “It rarely has.”

Are China’s production numbers real? “Everyone is skeptical,” he warned.

And finally, how will world politics – the war in Ukraine, China’s relationship with Taiwan and ongoing inflation concerns in the U.S. – affect the grain markets and global trade?

Krueger returned to his original assessment.

“Export opportunities await U.S. wheat,” he said. “Again, it’s complicated.”



Russia’s unprovoked invasions of Ukraine sent already bullish wheat futures prices soaring earlier this year.

However, the first grain vessel to leave Ukraine since Russia’s February invasion set sail on Monday, August 1. The ship, carrying 27,000 metric tons (MT) of corn bound for Lebanon, was able to sail nine days after Ukraine and Russia agreed to a deal brokered by the United Nations (U.N.) and Turkey.

The news of the Ukrainian grain cargo’s safe arrival in Turkey sent Chicago Board of Trade wheat futures down more than 3% on August 2. Harvest across the northern hemisphere is another factor helping global wheat prices soften. However, the weather will play a crucial role in the weeks ahead. Hot weather could slash yields as it did in India this year. Too much rain could create quality issues.

In its July World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report, the USDA forecast that global wheat production would total 771.6 million metric tons (MMT), falling 1.7 MMT from USDA’s June estimate and 7.3 MMT less than in 2021/22. Global consumption is forecast at 784.2 MMT, outpacing production by 12.6 MMT.

The tighter balance sheet for worldwide wheat year-over-year is partly due to the Black Sea conflict, but other key exporting regions are worth a look.

Line chart of wheat futures prices since February 2022

United States

The most recent USDA Crop Progress Report, published August 1, reported that 82% of the winter wheat crop was harvested. USDA expects 2022/23 hard red winter (HRW) production to reach 15.9 MMT, falling 6.0 MMT from last season. Soft red winter (SRW) production is estimated at 10.2 MMT, higher than last season, and winter soft white (SW) production at 7.8 MMT, 1.3 MMT more than 2021/22. Many state wheat commissions have reported very limited disease pressure because of dry conditions during the growing season.

In the same report, the USDA rated U.S. spring wheat at 70% good or excellent. Last week the annual hard red spring (HRS) tour estimated that HRS yield would reach 49.1 bushels per acre (bpa) (3.3 MT/ha), the highest since 2015 and above the 5-year average of 39.4 bpa (2.6 MT/ha). In a weekly update, the North Dakota Wheat Commission said spring wheat remains behind in its maturation but added that recent warmer temperatures are helping the crop develop.

Read the weekly U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Harvest Report here. In addition, North Dakota Wheat Commission Policy and Marketing Director Jim Peterson reviewed U.S. and global durum supply and demand in a webinar sponsored by the Northern Crops Institute (NCI) Aug. 3.


Canada is rebounding from a drought that slashed spring wheat and durum production there in 2021/22. The USDA raised the Canadian wheat forecast by 57% compared to last year. An analyst with MarketsFarm warned that the USDA is too optimistic and does not take into account the late plantings in the eastern Prairies and the lingering drought in western Canada. The USDA puts 2022/23 exports at 25.0 MMT.

European Union

The European Union (E.U.) has recently been hit with a severe heat wave. Last week the E.U.’s crop monitoring service, MARS, cut its yield forecast to 5.74 MT/ha. France, the largest wheat-producing country in the E.U. experienced its driest July on record and the driest month since 1961. Last week, Agritel, a French consultancy, cut its forecast for French wheat. German farm group DBV, increased Germany’s 2022 winter wheat harvest by 1%  to 21.38 MMT.

While the hot weather in some E.U. countries is concerning, a drought in Romania is affecting the water levels on the Danube River. The river is a major artery for transporting Romanian and, increasingly, Ukrainian grains to E.U. countries and to the Black Sea. The lower water levels mean that ships must sail at reduced tonnage. The Rhine River in Germany and Po River in Italy are also low meaning that barges carrying grain are either unable to sail or must sail with reduced cargos.


Production in Australia is expected to fall 6.3 MMT to 30.0 MMT this season following the bumper crop harvested in 2021/22. Exports are expected to fall 3.5 MMT to 24 MMT, but this is still 45% above the 5-year average. Even with the surplus of exportable wheat, port capacity in Australia is tight, making it hard for exporters to manage increased demand.


The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service attaché, on July 25, lowered the 2022/23 export forecast to 12.35 MMT or 1.15 MMT less than the July WASDE forecast. The wheat-growing region is experiencing prolonged dry weather due to a protracted La Niña weather event making it difficult for farmers to plant their wheat crops.


Russia is expected to harvest a record crop this season. SovEcon, a Russian market analyst, put total wheat production at 90.9 MMT. The USDA estimates a more modest 81.5 MMT, but even that is 8% higher than in 2021/22 if realized. Recent heavy rain has affected the quality of the wheat being harvested reported Reuters. AgriCensus said that the amount of wheat designated as feed grain would be higher.


Ukraine is expected to harvest 19.5 MMT of wheat in 2022/23 according to USDA, falling 41% behind its 2021/22 production level. Exports are expected to fall to 10.0 MMT, dropping nearly 9.0 MMT year-over-year. Exports are down because of Russia’s Black Sea blockade; however, grain exports through the Black Sea resumed this week. Unfortunately, the ultimate outcome of this deal remains unknown.


The Kazak minister of agriculture said that wheat production in the Central Asian country would be 15% to 20% higher this year compared to last. The minister forecasts up to 13.5 MMT total wheat production this season. The Kazakh Grain Union is even more optimistic, indicating 16.0 MMT of wheat production and 9.0 MMT of grain available for export.

Nontraditional Wheat Exporters

Brazil is expected to harvest a record wheat crop in 2022. According to Conab, the food supply and statistics agency, wheat farmers in Brazil planted the largest area in 32 years, around 2.9 million hectares (7.16 million acres), and will harvest a record 9.0 MMT of wheat if the weather holds up. Conab said that Brazilian farmers boosted their plantings due to higher prices caused by supply disruptions.

India boasted plans to export as much as 10.0 MMT of wheat this season. However, hot weather weeks before harvest cut yields. The country instead banned wheat exports, thereby adding even more uncertainty and disruption to the global wheat market.

Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) wheat futures have averaged $9.61 since January. On Tuesday, August 2, the September contract was trading at $7.74. This is good news for wheat buyers. Allowing Ukrainian wheat back into the market via the “grain corridor” is a positive move for the global price of wheat. The weather in key growing regions, both during harvest and during fall planting, will be the thing to keep an eye on.

By USW Market Analyst Michael Anderson