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By USW President Vince Peterson

Recently, I have heard several of the farmers that U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) represents say they are hoping for a much better year in 2020. No wonder, given the low farmgate prices, trade uncertainty and difficult harvest conditions last year. A better year would be good for our farmers and for our overseas customers, too, who want farmers to have the incentive to continue producing a reliable supply of high-quality U.S. wheat.

From the perspective of global supply, demand and trade factors, we do see mostly positive influences hovering just out in front of us as we start the new year. After a long-term bear market that pulled Chicago wheat futures down from $9.50 in 2012 to a bottom of nearly $3.50, recent firmness in prices represents possible change and momentum on the horizon.

To highlight the primary market factors, we can start with a look at the Southern Hemisphere. Australia remains in the grips of drought that has reduced this year’s harvest outlook by 35 percent below their 10-year average. Australian wheat export prices are currently among the world’s highest at around $265 per metric ton (MT) FOB. In Argentina, the newly elected government has increased export taxes again for wheat from 7 percent to 12 percent (soybean export taxes were raised by 30 percent!). The bump in wheat export taxes raises FOB prices by more than $10 per MT, allegedly to protect domestic producer prices. That is not good for their importing customers, particularly for Brazil. However, after more than a dozen years of negotiations, Brazil on January 1 opened its 750,000 MT duty free tariff rate quota (TRQ), potentially advancing wheat import demand from outside Mercosur. When Mercosur wheat supplies have been tight, U.S. farmers have supplied an average of 80 percent of Brazil’s non-Mercosur needs.

In the Northern Hemisphere, Russian wheat export expectations have been reduced based on lower domestic supplies and prices for their standard 12.5 percent protein wheat (calculated on a dry matter basis and is most closely comparable to U.S. HRW 11 protein calculated on a 12 percent moisture basis). Russian FOB export prices are now around $219 per MT, with U.S. hard red winter (HRW) 11 percent at approximately $222 FOB from the Gulf. Long gone are the $40 to $50 per MT FOB discount spreads that have disrupted what would be normal logistical trade patterns in some recent years.

In its December “Wheat Outlook” report, USDA noted that cuts in wheat production in Argentina, Australia and Canada create potential opportunities for U.S. wheat exports in marketing year 2019/20.

In trade, despite the uncertain slog of negotiations, the United States has completed trade deals with Mexico through the finalization of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (the new NAFTA) and through an initial bilateral agreement on agriculture with Japan. U.S. wheat export shipments to Mexico in marketing year 2019/20 already stand at 2.74 million metric tons (MMT) versus sales at the same date last year of 2.18 MMT. Together, Mexico and Japan account for more than 4.0 MMT and 25 percent of all U.S. wheat export sales to date.

Finally, trade negotiations with China, which have been perhaps the biggest weight on U.S. wheat market fundamentals and psychology, appear to be at a more hopeful position. This week, President Trump announced that the U.S. and China will sign a so-called Phase One deal on January 15. Based on information provided by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, China has agreed under the Phase One agreement to cancel retaliatory tariffs and import significantly more U.S. agricultural products, including wheat. Running parallel to this potential demand, China has also agreed to start filling its annual 9.6 MMT reduced tariff TRQ for imported wheat. In the five years before the start of the U.S.-China trade “war” in 2018, U.S. wheat exports to China averaged 1.5 MMT per year. That provides a logical basis for a more robust world and U.S. wheat trade with China.

Over the last five years or so, U.S. wheat producers have shouldered many challenges and continued to produce the highest quality, most wholesome milling wheat in the world, as they have done for decades. We do not yet know if these positive shifts in market and trade factors will provide the economic boost they need. But in that hope, our team at USW will be watching how they affect the markets – and how that will affect our overseas customers.

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By Claire Hutchins, USW Market Analyst

In its December World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report, USDA now expects world wheat production for marketing year 2019/20 to increase by 5 percent to 765 million metric tons (MMT) from last year’s 731 MMT. Lower expected production in Argentina and Australia likely encouraged USDA to also increase its forecast for U.S. wheat exports in 2019/20 by 4 percent. Already expected, record-setting total use was also raised.

 

USDA said increased wheat production is mainly in the Northern Hemisphere. The report noted European Union (EU) 2019/20 wheat production increased 12 percent over last year to 154 MMT, total Black Sea wheat production increased 6 percent over 2018/19 to 131 MMT, and U.S. wheat production increased 2 percent year-over-year to 52.3 MMT.

That volume more than offset lower output south of the equator where prolonged droughts continue to challenge wheat producers in Argentina and Australia. Argentinian wheat production is forecast to fall 3 percent from last year to 19.0 MMT. Australian wheat production is expected to decline by 7 percent year-over-year to 16.1 MMT, the country’s lowest wheat output since 2007/08.

USDA forecasts total U.S. wheat exports in 2019/20 will reach 26.5 MMT, up from its November estimate of 25.9 MMT and 4 percent greater than last year’s 25.5 MMT. As of November 28, according to USDA export sales data, total U.S. wheat exports of 16.5 MMT outpace last year’s sales by 9 percent. Exports to five of the top 10 markets for U.S. wheat are ahead of last year’s pace. Notably, U.S. wheat exports to Mexico are up 27 percent on the year. Hard red winter (HRW) and durum exports in 2019/20 both outpace last year’s sales.

Pacific Northwest (PNW) and Gulf hard red spring (HRS) free on board (FOB) prices have remained steady and high following a wet, difficult harvest and minimal farmer selling. Despite these higher price levels, USDA increased its HRS export estimate from 6.94 MMT in October to 7.08 MMT in December.

USDA also predicts a significant increase in total wheat consumption in 2019/20 compared to last year. Total global consumption is expected to reach a record 754 MMT, 2 percent greater than 2018/19. USDA expects the top three importers of wheat, Egypt, Indonesia and Brazil, to increase total wheat imports year-over-year. Total wheat imported by these three countries is expected to increase 4 percent over last year to 31.2 MMT.

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By Claire Hutchins, USW Market Analyst

It is no secret U.S. hard red winter (HRW) wheat farmers have struggled through a difficult planting season. Many industry sources believe total U.S. winter wheat planted area will fall year-over-year due to depressed local prices and challenging planting conditions. In the Southern Plains, moderate to extreme drought and frigid temperatures have challenged early crop establishment. In the Northern Plains, near-record precipitation and miserably cold weather delayed planting and continue to hamper early crop development.

When U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) reached out to the industry, however, the experts expressed some familiar optimism about next year’s crop, despite challenges in the field.

Too cold, too dry. Southwest Kansas and parts of Colorado and Oklahoma are bone-dry and cold.

“Some of the crop that was planted emerged then shriveled, and some of the crop planted in dry soil is behind on emergence. At this rate we won’t have a lot of fall tillering and the winter wheat won’t be as hardy through the winter,” says Dr. Romulo Lollato, Assistant Professor of Agronomy, Wheat and Forage Extension Specialist at Kansas State University.

This could impact wheat survival and yield as temperatures begin to drop. A lower water profile in Western Kansas following this year’s corn harvest will lead to decreased winter wheat planted area, according to Lollato. However, in central Kansas, there was enough soil moisture to support the winter wheat planted around or before the optimal planting dates.

“I’d say about 30 percent of the state’s wheat is in rough shape due to extreme dryness, 10 to15 percent is in good shape and the rest could go either way,” says Lollato.

Producers in southeastern Colorado are facing the same challenge as producers in western Kansas. Planted area could decrease slightly below last year’s 2.15 million acres (0.85 million hectares) due to moderate drought and depressed commodity prices. The HRW planted area in northeastern Colorado is also expected to be slightly down compared to last year, according to Brad Erker, Executive Director of the Colorado Wheat Administrative Committee, due to prices, some movement to spring crops and pressure on acres from the wheat stem sawfly.  Most of the winter wheat in the northeastern part of the state is emerged thanks to decent soil moisture levels at planting.

It is also extremely dry and cold in the western part of Oklahoma, which hinders HRW growth and development.

“But early dryness, paired with anticipated precipitation, could actually lead to stronger root development in the long run. And long term, it could be a mild winter which would help the crop,” says Mike Schulte, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission.

Too Dry. Drought conditions are worsening in southwestern Kansas, southeastern Colorado and the western Oklahoma Panhandle. Central and northern Texas is drying out, too.

Too cold, too wet. In the northern half of the Great Plains, the story is just the opposite.

“We have had a lot of challenges this year—emergence is behind the 5 year average due to weather, and the wheat that is out of the ground is getting a slow start,” says Cassidy Marn, Interim Executive Vice President of the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee.

According to USDA, Montana is slightly behind last year and the 5-year average at 97% planted, but emergence is significantly more delayed. HRW is only 75% emerged in Montana compared to the 5-year average of 94%.

“There is just not much coming out of the ground,” says Marn “It should be about five inches tall and well established, but you drive around and do not see much wheat up and growing at all.”

According to Reid Christopherson, Executive Director of the South Dakota Wheat Commission, “We’ve had near record precipitation this year which prevented winter wheat planting in some areas. We expect lower winter wheat acres this year due to extreme wetness and difficult marketing conditions.”

However, Reid adds, nearly 100% of South Dakota’s wheat is emerged and about 70% of it is rated as good to excellent.

Worst Case Scenario. Mother Nature was not kind to many farmers at harvest this year. Past USW Chairman and Vida, Mont., farmer Leonard Schock shared this sad image of what heavy snow did to a mature wheat crop that had exceptional yield potential.

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Three and a half months into marketing year 2019/20, total U.S. export sales* as of Oct. 15 of 13.8 million metric tons (MMT), 14 percent ahead of last year’s pace. Sales to four of the top 10 U.S. wheat customers are ahead of last year’s pace. Export sales to Mexico, the top U.S. customer over a five-year period, are up 50 percent year-over-year at 2.09 MMT. Sales to Nigeria total 936,000 metric tons (MT), up sharply from the 569,000 MT sold this time last year. All U.S. wheat classes except hard red spring (HRS) and white wheat are ahead of last year’s pace. USDA projects 2019/20 U.S. wheat exports will rise to 25.9 MMT. If realized, this would be 1 percent higher than 2018/19.

HRW. USDA reported hard red winter (HRW) year-to-date exports at 5.13 MMT, 52 percent ahead of the 2018/19 HRW sales pace on the same date. Mexico is currently the number one HRW purchaser and HRW sales to Mexico are 54 percent ahead of last year’s pace. As of Oct. 10, HRW sales to Mexico totaled 1.27 MMT. Sales to Nigeria are more than double last year’s pace at 567,000 MT. Japanese HRW purchases total 488,000 MT, up 7 percent from 2018/19.

SRW. 2019/20 soft red winter (SRW) sales are up 14 percent year-over-year at 1.72 MMT. Sales to 4 out of 5 of the top buyers of U.S. SRW are ahead of last year’s pace. Year-to-date, Mexico has purchased 550,000 MT, 15 percent more than last year. Nigerian SRW purchases total 142,000 MT, 50 percent ahead of last year’s pace. Sales to other Latin American countries, including Trinidad and Tobago and Panama are also ahead of 2018/19 exports.

HRS sales of 3.77 MMT are only 1 percent behind the last year’s pace. As of Oct. 10, buyers in Taiwan purchased 353,000 MT, up 5 percent from 2018/19. Taiwan is the third-largest buyer of HRS. Sales to South Korea, the fourth-largest buyer of HRS, are up 10 percent from last year at 294,000 MT. Year-to-date sales to Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines, Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia, are behind last year’s pace. This time last year, there were no HRS sales to China. So far in 2019/20, the U.S. has sold 63,000 MT of HRS to China.

White. As of Oct. 11, exports of all white wheat (including soft white and hard white) are down 14 percent year-over-year at 2.62 MMT. Sales to 4 out of the top 5 customers of U.S. white wheat are down from last year. Sales to the Philippines, the largest customer of soft white (SW) wheat, are down 6 percent from 2018/19 at 660,000 MT.  SW food aid donations to Yemen are up 79 percent from this time last year at 231,000 MT. Minimal access to the Chinese market is also impacting SW sales. In 2017/18, China had purchased 271,000 MT of SW by this date.

It should be noted that the white sales to Nigeria of 123,000 MT are hard white (HW). USDA does not differentiate between the 2 classes on the Export Sales Report. HW sales to Nigeria in 2019/20 are 9 percent ahead of last year’s pace.

Durum. Year-to-date durum exports total 497,000 MT, up 59 percent from the same time last year. To date, the European Union (EU), Algeria and Nigeria are the top durum buyers. Year-to-date sales to the EU total 269,000 MT (9.88 million bushels), more than double last year’s pace. Italy is the top durum buyer in the EU. U.S. durum sales to Italy are up 165 percent from last year at 248,000 MT. Increased sales to the EU more than offset decreased sales to Algeria and Nigeria. Algerian durum sales are down 30 percent from last year at 45,000 MT and Nigerian durum sales are down 58 percent from 2018/19 at 28,000 MT. There is also a significant portion of these 2019/20 durum sales currently designated as “sales to unknown destinations.”

*U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) publishes a new Commercial Sales report every Thursday documenting wheat export sales-to-date by country and class for the current marketing year compared to the previous marketing year on the same date. The report also includes a 10-year commercial sales history by class and country. Data is sourced from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Weekly Export Sales Report.

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As a key part of its commitment to transparency and trade service, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) produces an annual Crop Quality Report that includes grade, flour and baking data for all six U.S. wheat classes. The report compiles comprehensive data from analysis of hundreds of samples conducted during and after harvest by our partner organizations and laboratories. The report provides essential, objective information to help buyers get the wheat they need at the best value possible.

The 2019 USW Crop Quality Report is now available for download in English, Spanish, French and Italian, and will be available in Chinese and Arabic soon. USW also shares more detailed, regional reports for all six U.S. wheat classes on its website, as well as additional information on its sample and collection methods, solvent retention capacity (SRC) recommendations, standard deviation tables and more. Download these reports and resources from the website here.

USW’s annual Crop Quality Seminars are already underway and will continue over the next month around the world. USW invites its overseas customers, including buyers, millers and processors, to these seminars led by USW staff, U.S. wheat farmers, state wheat commission staff and educational partner organizations. The seminars dive into grade factors, protein levels, flour extraction rates, dough stability, baking loaf volume, noodle color and texture and more for all six U.S. wheat classes and are tailored to focus on the needs and trends in each regional market.

In 2019, USW is projected to host 43 seminars in 41 countries, including official seminars in the South America region for the first time in several years.

Customers have previously shared that they use the report throughout the year as a reference manual and to guide them through purchases and future planning. The seminars allow U.S. and USW experts to interpret the data and how to use it. Customers will often use the seminars and report as educational training for new employees.

The reports and seminars have been a traditional part of USW’s strategy since 1959, growing to become its single largest marketing activity.

Look for updates from the 2019 USW Crop Quality Seminars on Facebook and Twitter.

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By Claire Hutchins, USW Market Analyst

Despite the potential for reduced U.S. hard red spring (HRS) production year-over-year and crop quality concerns on late-harvested HRS, the United States is still well-stocked to meet overseas customer needs throughout marketing year (MY) 2019/20. As domestic sellers and buyers manage their risk in a dynamic market, however, overseas buyers should expect HRS export basis to increase. U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) wants to provide a closer analysis of this rather unique situation.

Unrelenting precipitation in the Northern Plains continued to challenge HRS wheat producers throughout the 2019 harvest season. Excess moisture on unharvested wheat can lead to low falling numbers, reduced test weights, reduced percentage of DHV and increased DON levels. By Sept. 20, only 76 percent of the country’s spring wheat was harvested compared to 96 percent in 2018.

As markets considered potential quality issues on the rest of the harvest, HRS export prices jumped significantly between Sept. 13 and Sept. 20. The average Gulf HRS 14.0 (12% moisture basis) export basis for nearby delivery increased 20 cents/bu from $1.40/bu to $1.60/bu. In the same week, average Pacific Northwest (PNW) HRS 14.0 export basis for nearby delivery jumped 36 percent from $1.05/bu to $1.65/bu. Market uncertainty carried into the week of Sept. 27 when the country’s HRS harvest was only 87 percent complete, well behind the 5-year average of 99 percent. By Sept. 27, the average Gulf HRS 14.0 export basis increased another 30 cents to $1.90/bu and the average PNW HRS 14.0 export basis added 27 percent to $2.10/bu, both driven by crop quality concerns and minimal farmer selling.

Source: U.S. Wheat Associates Price Report, Oct. 4, 2019

In its October World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report, USDA estimated the United States would produce 15.2 million metric tons (MMT) of HRS in 2019. On Oct. 15, USDA reported harvest was 94 percent complete, still well behind the average completion date of around Sept. 30. Many industry sources now believe the HRS harvest is essentially over as farmers struggle to enter their fields due to ongoing precipitation, including heavy snow in parts of North Dakota and Montana. If realized, this would put the total 2019 U.S. HRS harvest closer to 14.3 MMT, 12 percent lower than last year.

As noted, the United States is still well-stocked to meet export throughout MY 2019/20. Industry experts estimate between 60 and 65 percent of this year’s HRS harvest, about 8.94 MMT, is high-quality, milling grade wheat. USDA estimated 2019 HRS beginning stocks at 7.16 MMT. This puts the total supply of U.S. milling wheat in MY 2019/20, including the remainder of last year’s excellent harvest, at 16.1 MMT.

However, customers should be aware that a large portion of these stocks remain in storage as farmers are reluctant to sell wheat at current local prices. HRS export basis levels continue to climb because producers have several incentives to hold their high-quality HRS into the coming months.

First, Minneapolis Grain Exchange (MGEX) forward futures contracts show a significant carry between December 2019 and December 2020. As of the last trade on Oct. 15, the December 2019 MGEX HRS futures contract (MWEZ19) traded at $5.45/bu while the December 2020 MGEX HRS futures contract (MWEZ20) closed at $5.95/bu. Each MGEX HRS futures contract gains about 10 cents per contract period starting in December 2020, a reason for farmers to hold supplies until cash prices increase.

Source: MGEX

Second, average local basis levels are firming across the Northern Plains, which signals to farmers that the discount between futures values and the cash price they receive could shrink over time. For example, according to DTN data, the average HRS local basis value in North Dakota decreased from negative $0.79/bu to negative $0.72/bu between Sept. 30 and Oct. 15. At one elevator in North Dakota, the gap between the December futures price and the local cash price shrank 42 percent from negative $1.05/bu to $0.65/bu. Over the same period, the local average HRS cash price in North Dakota increased from $4.66/bu to $4.74/bu.

Finally, storage space is not under pressure. Typically, HRS moves into the market around harvest and when storage space is needed for row crop harvest, which in 2019 has seriously affected in the Northern Plains. For example, the heavy snow hit North Dakota with only 1 percent of the corn harvest and 16 percent of the soybean harvest completed. With no other crops coming out, farms and country elevators do not yet need to move much HRS wheat out of storage.

Given this situation, USW believes HRS export basis will continue to rise until local cash prices increase enough to encourage producers to liquidate their HRS stocks into the milling and export channels. The United States has plenty of high-quality HRS available to sell into MY 2019/20, but it will take a significant shift in local cash price dynamics across the Northern Plains for these supplies to reach export terminals.

 

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Pacific Northwest (PNW) farmers produced another fine soft white wheat (SW) and white club (WC) crop with good test weight and very acceptable finished product characteristics for 2019. Adequate soil moisture at planting and throughout the growing season did contribute to higher moisture and protein content compared to 2018 but protein remained lower than the 5-year average. In fact, the higher SW protein segment provides opportunities in blends for crackers, Asian noodles, steamed breads, flat breads, and pan breads. Variations in performance data for 2019 compared to 2018 and the 5-year averages are included below for this 6.09 million metric ton (MMT) crop, including 170,000 MT of WC.

That is a summary of results from the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) 2019 SW and WC crop quality analysis to be posted soon at https://www.uswheat.org/market-and-crop-information/crop-quality/. To complete the analysis, the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC) received and tested SW and WC samples from Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. The Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS) graded and ran wheat protein on each sample. WMC conducted wheat, flour, Solvent Retention Capacity (SRC), dough, and finished product tests on composites based on production zones and protein levels. Funding for the annual survey come from state wheat commission USW members and the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

As always, buyers are encouraged to review their quality specifications to ensure that their purchases meet their expectations.

Wheat and Grade Data: The Overall average grade of the 2019 SW and WC crops is U.S. No. 1. The average SW test weight of 61.6 lb/bu (81.0 kg/hl) is slightly lower than last year’s 61.7 lb/bu (81.1 kg/hl); WC test weight of 60.6 lb/bu (79.7 kg/hl) is slightly higher than 2018’s 60.4 lb/bu (79.5 kg/hl). SW has fewer damaged kernels, fewer shrunken and broken kernels, and less foreign material than the 5-year averages. WC shrunken and broken kernel percentages are lower than last year and the 5-year averages. WC foreign material is higher than last year and 5-year averages. WC dockage is slightly higher than last year and the 5-year averages. Other WC grade factors are similar to past averages. Wheat moisture for both SW and WC is above last year and the 5-year averages.

The Overall SW and WC wheat protein content (12% mb) of 10.0 and 9.8%, respectively, are 0.7 and 0.8 percentage points above the respective 2018 values, but below those of 5-year averages. SW and WC wheat ash contents (14% moisture basis) are similar to last year and the 5-year averages. Thousand kernel weight for SW is above 2018 and the 5-year average levels; WC is lower than last year and higher than the 5-year average. SW kernel diameter is the same as last year, but larger than the 5-year average. WC kernel diameter is smaller than last year, but larger than the 5-year average. Falling number values are 317 sec for SW and 355 sec for WC.

Flour, Dough, and Bake Data: The 2019 Buhler Laboratory Mill flour extraction average for SW and WC at 72.1% and 72.8% respectively are lower than last year and the 5-year averages. Flour protein content (14% mb) is 8.9% for both SW and WC. Flour ash content (14% mb) for both SW and WC are higher than last year but the same as 5-year averages. Amylograph peak viscosity value for SW is 485 BU, slightly lower than last year; WC is 523 BU, much higher than last year. Starch damage value is slightly higher for SW than last year but lower than the 5-year averages. WC starch damage is lower than last year and the 5-year averages.

Solvent retention capacity (SRC) water values for SW and WC are less than last year and 5-year averages. SW lactic acid and sodium carbonate values are similar to last year and the 5-year averages. WC lactic acid values are higher than last year, but same as 5-year average. SW and WC gluten performance index (GPI) values are similar to last year and 5-year averages. SW farinograph peak and stability times are shorter than last year and the 5-year averages. WC peak time is slightly longer than last year and 5-year averages. SW and WC water absorptions are similar to last year, but less than the 5-year averages. The SW and WC alveograph L values are considerably longer than last year and 5-year averages. SW and WC extensograph resistance is larger than last year and the 5-year averages. SW and WC extensibility values are longer than last year and the 5-year averages.

Sponge cake volume for SW at 1104 cc is larger than last year, but smaller than the 5-year average, and the total score is slightly lower than last year and the 5-year averages. The sponge cake volume for WC at 1141 cc is slightly larger than last year, but smaller than the 5-year average, and total score the same as last year and much higher than the 5-year averages. SW and WC cookie diameter values are smaller than last year, but similar to the 5-year averages. SW and WC cookie spread factors are more than last year and the 5-year averages.

Chinese Southern-Type Steamed Bread: In southern-type steamed bread compared to a control flour, the 2019 SW and WC specific volumes are slightly less than last year and the 5-year averages. The SW total score is higher than last year and the 5-year averages; WC is the same as last year, but lower than the 5-year average.

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Unexpectedly high yields from the U.S. Plains to the Pacific Northwest (PNW) resulted in lower wheat and flour protein in the 2019 hard red winter (HRW) wheat crop, but the crop exhibits good milling and end-product characteristics. Even though mixing times and tolerances are shorter than the five-year averages, the loaf volumes achieved indicate there is adequate protein quality to make quality bread. This crop meets or exceeds typical HRW contract specifications and should provide high value to the customer. The 2019 HRW crop can be characterized as clean and sound with very good milling properties, but with below average protein content still capable of producing good end products.

That is a summary of the major regional results for HRW from the upcoming U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) 2019 Crop Quality Report. California HRW data is reported separately. Plains Grains, Inc., in cooperation with the USDA/ARS Hard Winter Wheat Quality Lab, Manhattan, Kan., analyzed 494 HRW samples collected from grain elevators in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Funding for the annual survey come from USW member state wheat commissions and the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

Weather and Harvest: The 2019 HRW planted area represents near historic 100-year lows, continuing the trend of recent years. Despite stagnant planted area, HRW production is estimated at 22.9 MMT (840 mil bu), a 27% increase over 2018. USDA estimates the HRW supply (excluding imports) is the third highest in the last 20 years.

Various climatic conditions challenged this crop. However, moisture remained adequate, or even excessive, in the central and southern production areas and resulted in better than expected yields, lower than average protein, but otherwise good milling and processing characteristics. The U.S. Southern, Central and Northern Plains experienced an unusually wet spring, slowing crop maturity and uniformly delaying the beginning of harvest two weeks or more. At the same time, the PNW and Montana experienced abnormal swings in temperature and severe storms. Despite intense and prolonged moisture during later stages of crop development, disease and insect pressure in most production areas was unusually low.  Once harvest began, it progressed normally in most production areas.

Wheat and Grade Data: The 2019 crop has generally very good kernel characteristics. Overall 93% of Composite, 91% of Gulf-Tributary and 97% of PNW-Tributary samples graded U.S. No. 2 or better. Average test weight of 60.6 lb/bu (79.6 kg/hl) is below 2018 but above the 5-year average. Average dockage (0.5%), total defects (1.3%), foreign material (0.2%) and shrunken and broken (0.8%) are all equal to better than 2018 and the 5-year averages. Average thousand kernel weight of 32.7 g significantly exceeds last year and the 5-year average (both 30.7 g). Kernel characteristics, including test weight, thousand kernel weight and kernel diameter are very good and consistent with favorable growing conditions. However, growing conditions favoring kernel size and test weight are not conducive to accumulating protein, which is below last year and the five-year averages. The average wheat falling number is 378 sec, indicative of sound wheat.

Flour and Baking Data: The Buhler laboratory flour yield average is 74.0%, comparable to the 2018 average of 75.1% and the 5-year average of 75.5%. The 2019 flour ash of 0.48% (14% mb) is comparable to last year’s 0.44% but significantly lower than the 5-year average of 0.55% due to milling adjustments made in 2018. The alveograph W value of 223 10-4 J is significantly lower than last year but comparable to the 5-year average of 234 10-4 J. Farinograph peak and stability times, 3.3 min and 7.3 min, respectively, are significantly lower than last year’s 5.2 min and 12.2 min. Average bake absorption is 62.7%, below the 63.7% value for 2018 but comparable to the 5-year average. Overall loaf volume averaged 863 cc, well below last year’s 901 cc, but comparable to the 5-year average of 851 cc.

Complete 2019 crop quality data for all six U.S. wheat classes will soon be available online and at annual USW Crop Quality Seminars.

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By Claire Hutchins, USW Market Analyst

On Sept. 30, USDA released its Small Grains Summary noting that 2019/20 U.S. wheat production increased to 53.3 million metric tons (MMT), up 4 percent from last year due to significant improvements in yield despite lower planted area. While this is still 2 percent below the 5-year average of 54.2 MMT, the production volume coupled with significant carry-in stocks ensure that the U.S. wheat remains the most reliable supply for 2019/20. Here is a look at 2019/20 U.S. wheat production by class.

USDA’s Small Grains Summary indicates U.S. wheat yields offset a reduced planted area for 2019/20.

Hard Red Winter (HRW). Last fall, U.S. farmers decreased HRW planting in the U.S. Southern and Central Plans due to extremely wet conditions which delayed the soybean harvest and in turn HRW planting. A slight uptick in planted area in Montana and South Dakota partially offset reductions in other states. Total U.S. HRW planted area fell 2 percent year-over-year to 22.7 million acres (9.19 million hectares), 15 percent below the 5-year average of 26.6 million acres (10.8 million hectares). Cool temperatures and favorable moisture during the growing season boosted HRW yields substantially year-over-year in Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma. In Kansas, the largest HRW producing state, a higher average yield offset lower planted area and production increased 22 percent over 2018/19 levels to 338 million bushels (9.17 MMT). USDA estimates total 2019/20 HRW production increased 26 percent over last year to 834 million bushels (22.7 MMT).

Hard Red Spring (HRS). Cold soil temperatures and excessive moisture in certain areas delayed HRS planting across much of the Northern Plains. USDA says U.S. farmers planted 12.0 million acres (4.86 million hectares), 6% below last year but slightly higher than the 5-year average of 11.8 million acres (4.78 million hectares). A cool summer boosted HRS yields in Montana and South Dakota. Heavy, persistent rain has severely delayed the 2019 HRS harvest. According to USDA, as of September 30, U.S. spring wheat harvest is only 90 percent complete compared to the 5-year average of 99 percent. USDA estimates 2019 HRS production will total 558 million bushels (15.2 MMT), 5 percent lower than 2018, but 8 percent higher than the 5-year average of 518 million bushels (14.1 MMT).

Soft Red Winter (SRW). Last fall, U.S. farmers planted 5.54 million acres (2.24 million hectares) of SRW, down 6 percent from the year prior and 18 percent from the 5-year average of 6.7 million acres (2.71 million hectares) due to low wheat prices compared to soybeans and delayed planting. Excessive moisture continued through the growing season and slowed harvest progress in many places. USDA reported SRW production totaled 239 million bushels (6.50 MMT), down 16 percent from last year and 31 percent below the 5-year average of 348 million bushels (9.46 MMT).

White Wheat (Soft White, Club and Hard White). U.S. white wheat planted area fell 4 percent below 2018/19 levels to 3.95 million acres (1.60 million hectares). Mild growing conditions and good soil moisture in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) supported above-average winter and spring wheat yields. The average white winter wheat yield in Oregon increased 1.0 bu/acre (.067 MT/hectare) over last year to 68.0 bu/acre (4.57 MT/hectare) in 2019. Slightly lower planted area and above-average yields kept U.S. white wheat production stable year-over-year at 273 million bushels (7.43 MMT) and 8 percent higher than the 5-year average of 252 million bushels (6.87 MMT).

Durum. Anticipating less-than break even prices, farmers planted less durum area this year. In its Small Grains 2019 Summary, USDA estimated 1.34 million acres (542,000 hectares) were planted to durum, down 35 percent from 2018/19 and 32 percent below the 5-year average of 2.0 million acres (664,000 hectares). USDA estimated total 2019/20 U.S. durum production at 57.3 million bushels (1.57 MMT), down 26 percent from last year. Cool, wet weather boosted yields in the U.S. Northern plains. Both Montana and North Dakota durum yield potential reached a record high in 2019. The country’s average durum yield also reached a record high of 44.8 bu/acre (3.01 MT/hectare), up 13 percent from last year. However, as with HRS, a significant portion of the northern durum crop has not yet been harvested. Desert Durum® production fell 46 percent year-over year to 5.67 million bushels (154,000 MT) due to sharply lower planted area in both Arizona and California.

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Following planting in the fall of 2018, much of the U.S. soft red winter (SRW) growing area received excessive moisture throughout the winter and spring, which also caused lengthy harvest delays in many areas. The excessive moisture adversely affected quality by reducing falling number values and increasing DON values in some areas. At an estimated 7.01 million metric tons (MMT), this is a smaller crop than in 2018 because farmers seeded less and average yield per harvested acre was below last year and the five-year average. Processors should find good qualities in the 2019 SRW crop for cookies and crackers and segments of the crop showed good cake qualities.

That is a summary of results from the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) 2019 SRW Crop Quality Report, now posted online at https://bit.ly/SRWCQ0919. To complete the report, Great Plains Analytical Laboratory in Kansas City, Mo., collected and analyzed 261 samples from 18 reporting areas in the 11 states that account for about 72% of total 2019 SRW production. Funding for the annual survey come from state wheat commission USW members and the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

As always, buyers are encouraged to review their quality specifications to ensure that their purchases meet their expectations.

Wheat and Grade Data. The overall average grade of the samples collected for the 2019 SRW harvest survey is U.S. No. 2. The average test weight is 58.1 lb/bu (76.5 kg/hl), equal to the 5-year average and above the 57.9 lb/bu (76.2 kg/hl) average in 2018. The Gulf Port average of 58.5 lb/bu (76.9 kg/hl) is above both last year and the 5-year average. The East Coast test weight average of 56.9 lb/bu (75.0 kg/hl) is above last year but below the 5-year average of 57.4 lb/bu (75.6 kg/hl).

The East Coast Total Defects average of 2.5% is above last year and the 5-year average, indicating that damaged and shrunken and broken kernels are slightly higher than usual in that portion of the crop. The Gulf Port Total Defects is 1.1%, above 2018 but almost half of the 5-year average. Other Gulf Port grade factors, dockage and moisture are close to or higher than 2018 and 5-year average values.

The Composite average wheat protein content of 9.5% (12% moisture basis) is lower than 2018’s 9.9% and the 5-year average of 9.7%. Both the Gulf Port protein average of 9.4% and East Coast average of 9.7% are below the respective 2018 and 5-year averages. The Composite average falling number of 288 seconds is significantly lower than 2018 and the 5-year average. The Gulf Port average of 289 seconds and the East Coast average of 283 seconds are both significantly below 2018 and the 5-year averages. Approximately 21% of samples had a falling number below 250 seconds in 2019, with 13% below 225. The Composite DON average of 1.3 ppm is above the 2018 average and close to the 5-year average of 1.2 ppm. The East Coast value of 0.5 ppm is below the 5-year average while the Gulf Port value of 1.5 ppm is above the 5-year average. Of the samples tested for DON, 33% of the Gulf Port results and 84% of the East Coast results were less than 1.0 ppm.

Flour and Baking Data. The Composite, East Coast and Gulf Port Buhler laboratory mill flour extraction averages are below 2018 and the 5-year averages. The farinograph peak and absorption values are similar to 5-year averages, but the stability values are all below the 5-year averages. The SRC values generally indicate good quality for cookies. The Composite, East Coast and Gulf Port alveograph L averages of 81 are lower than last year and the 5-year average, indicating lower extensibility. All other alveograph averages are similar to the respective 5-year averages given the variability of alveograph analysis. The Gulf amylograph average of 392 BU and East average of 462 indicate relatively high levels of amylase activity in the crop and are consistent with the low falling numbers.

The Composite, East Coast and Gulf Port cookie spread ratios are all higher than last year and the 5-year averages, indicating good extensibility. Average loaf volumes are all lower than last year and the 5-year averages.

USW will share complete data for all classes of U.S. wheat in future Wheat Letter posts and with hundreds of overseas customers at several upcoming events, including USW’s annual Crop Quality Seminars, and in its annual Crop Quality Report.