Wheat food products to illustrate Wheat Industry News

The conscientious husbandry of U.S. farmers and the distinct influence of growing conditions across the Plains and into the Pacific Northwest helped produce a 2018 U.S. hard red winter (HRW) crop that has above average kernel characteristics and, in most cases, higher protein than the previous two crops. Annual crop quality testing sponsored by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and its partners from Plains Grains and USDA indicates the 2018 HRW quality attributes significantly exceed the last two years and many of the 5-year averages.

Most people and organizations in the industry consider this one of the highest quality crops in several years and will make high quality end products. This crop meets or exceeds typical HRW contract specifications and should provide high value to our customers.

Here is a summary of the season and test results, with full data soon available online and in USW’s annual Crop Quality Seminars.

Weather and Harvest

The 2018 hard red winter (HRW) planted area was 2.5 percent below the historical low planted area of the 2017 crop. With reduced yields and reduced area, 2018 HRW production is estimated to be 18.0 million metric tons [(MMT) (662 mil bu)], down 12 percent from 2017’s 20.4 MMT and 20 percent below the 5-year average production. Large beginning stocks offset the reduced production so the total HRW supply available for the 2018/19 marketing year is larger than three of the previous 5 years.

Conditions varied across the HRW growing regions. Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas were extremely dry during most of the growing season. By the time harvest started in early June, USDA rated 85 percent of HRW in these three states to be in fair, poor or very poor condition. Late season precipitation helped to establish good kernel characteristics even though rains were too late and insufficient to improve yield. In contrast, 75 percent to 90 percent of the crop rated fair, good or excellent in the remaining states north to eastern Montana. Because of dry conditions, disease and insect pressure was low.

Washington, Oregon, Idaho and central/north central Montana had adequate moisture throughout the year that helped maximize production. More than 90 percent of the HRW grown in these three states was rated fair, good or excellent in late June.

Wheat and Grade Data

Despite challenging growing conditions in many areas, the 2018 crop has generally good kernel characteristics. Overall 93 percent of Composite, 91 percent of Gulf-Tributary and 98 percent of PNW-Tributary samples graded U.S. No. 2 or better. Test weight averages 60.9 lb/bu (80.2 kg/hl), above the 5-year average of 60.3 lb/bu (79.3 kg/hl) and above last year’s average of 60.5 lb/bu (79.6 lb/bu). The total defects average of 1.4 percent is above last year’s average of 1.2 percent, but below the 5-year average of 1.6 percent. Foreign material is 0.2 percent, slightly above last year’s 0.1 percent, while shrunken and broken at 1.1 percent is above last year’s 0.9 percent and equal to the 5-year average. Average thousand kernel weight of 30.9 g exceeds the 5-year average of 29.8 g. The average wheat falling number is 373 seconds, which is comparable to the 2017 and 5-year averages and indicates sound wheat.

The average protein of 12.4 percent (12 percent moisture basis or mb) is significantly higher than last year and equal to the 5-year average. Protein content distribution varies by growing region; the Gulf-Tributary average is 12.7 percent and the PNW-Tributary average is 11.7 percent. Approximately 12 percent of the samples tested were less than 11.5 percent protein, 29 percent between 11.5 percent to 12.5 percent and 60 percent greater than 12.5 percent.

Flour and Baking Data

The Buhler laboratory flour yield average is 75.1 percent, lower than the 2017 average of 78.1 percent and similar to the 5-year average of 75.7 percent. The 2018 flour ash of 0.44 percent (14 percent mb) is significantly lower than last year’s 0.64 percent and the 5-year average of 0.59 percent. Composite sedimentation and wet gluten values, 54.2 cc and 28.1 percent, respectively, are both higher than last year. The W value of 280 (10-4 J) is significantly higher than last year’s average of 199 (10-4 J) and the 5-year average of 228 (10-4 J). average bake absorption is 63.7 percent, above the 62.8 percent value for both 2017 and the 5-year average. Farinograph peak and stability times, 5.2 min and 12.2 min, respectively, are higher than last year’s 4.5 min and 6.1 min. Loaf volume averages 901 cc, above the 2017 and 5-year averages.


By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst


USDA expects global wheat production to fall to the lowest level in 5 years at 733 million metric tons (MMT), down 3 percent from the record high of 758 MMT in 2017/18. If realized, it would be slightly below the 5-year average. This downturn is, unfortunately, led by decreasing supplies in historic wheat exporters. At the same time, USDA raised its forecast for global wheat consumption to a record high 746 MMT, up 1 percent from 2017/18. To help buyers stay up to date on this fundamental information, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is providing this round-up of current conditions and forecasts for Canada, Argentina and Australia.


The estimated wheat production in countries still harvesting adds only a small portion of the 2018/19 supplies in exporting countries, and the total is expected to be down for the second year in a row 


Canada. Winter is here, if you farm in Alberta and Saskatchewan that account for roughly 70 percent of Canadian wheat production. Provincial weekly crop reports on Sept. 11 noted harvest delays from early frosts, wet field conditions and, in some areas, snow. We do not yet know the extent of any damage to wheat quality from these conditions, but it raises concern because more than half of the spring wheat in the two provinces was still in the field. Harvest was an estimated at 23 and 46 percent complete in Alberta and Saskatchewan, respectively.


Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) had already pegged 2018/19 Canadian wheat production (excluding durum) down 4 percent from 2017/18 at 24.0 MMT. A 10 percent decrease in average wheat yields is partially offset by a 7 percent increase in expected harvested area. AAFC reported average wheat yields of 48.3 bu/acre (3.25 MT/ha) compared to 54.0 bu/acre (3.63 MT/ha) in 2017/18. Canadian durum production is expected up 1 percent from 2017/18 to 5.03 MMT; an expected 17 percent increase in harvested area more than offsets a14 percent reduction in average yields year over year. AAFC expects 2018/19 Canadian total wheat exports (including durum) to total 22.2 MMT, up 3 percent from 2017/18.


Argentina. According to the Bolsa de Cereales, the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange, Argentine farmers saw prices staying at profitable levels and planted 7 percent more wheat area for 2018/19. Since planting, the Argentine government announced an export duty of 4 pesos per dollar on wheat exports with its effects to be determined. Bolsa estimated total wheat planted area at 15.1 million acres (6.1 million hectares), up from 14.1 million acres (5.7 million hectares) in 2017/18.


On September 13, Bolsa reported beneficial moisture fell on the La Pampa region and areas around Buenos Aires. However, rainfall has been low in northwestern Argentina, which accounts for roughly one-third of wheat planted area. USDA’s September estimate for 2018/19 Argentinian wheat production was 19.5 MMT (716 million bushels), up 8 percent from 2017/18 and 35 percent greater than the 5-year average. Argentina harvest typically occurs in late November through early January.


Australia. The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) forecasts 2018/19 wheat production at 19.1 MMT. That is down 10 percent from 2017/18 due to severe drought in New South Wales and Queensland, where Australian Prime Hard (APH) and Australia Hard (AH) production is centralized. Increased wheat production in Western Australia may partially offset the lower production elsewhere. Still, if realized, production volume would be the lowest since 2007/08. Australian wheat harvest typically occurs in December. USDA expects Australian exports to decrease to 14.0 MMT, 21 percent below the 5-year average.


With global wheat supplies tightening and global demand on the rise, customers should pay close attention to crop conditions in these countries. Even if early snows or drought cut supplies there, or a government intervenes in the market somewhere else, U.S. farmers remain the most reliable suppliers of high quality wheat in the world.


By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst

It is no secret that global wheat production will fall this year due to unfavorable weather across the European Union (EU), Black Sea — Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine — and Australia. However, government policies are further constraining the global wheat supply, increasing costs and uncertainty for global wheat buyers.

Currently, there are two countries that have changed their export policies — Argentina and Ukraine — and a third, Russia, is thinking about it. These three countries account for an average 26 percent of global wheat exporter supplies and an average 50.7 MMT of global wheat exports. In Russia and Ukraine, the respective agricultural ministries are actively monitoring domestic wheat prices and wheat export quantities following a decline in 2018/19 production and rising domestic bread prices.

On Aug. 10, the Ukrainian Agricultural Ministry, in consultation with Ukrainian wheat traders, set the 2018/19 wheat export limit at 16.0 million metric tons (MMT), including 8.0 MMT of milling wheat. The export limit will cause Ukraine’s total wheat exports to fall by 7 percent year over year, but the milling wheat portion will fall by 20 percent compared to last year’s milling wheat export volume of 10.0 MMT. The export limit memorandum could be reviewed as early as the end of September, causing additional uncertainty about the availability of Ukrainian wheat.

On Sept. 3, the Russian Agricultural Ministry stated that it did not have plans to implement a grain export duty or “curb grain exports in any other way.” The Ministry released this statement following its second meeting with Russian grain exporters about export volumes in just 17 days. While the statement eased immediate concern from the markets (and resulted in 11 to 16 cent per bushel decreases for nearby wheat futures contracts on Sept. 4), the frequency of the meetings and letters obtained by Reuters have grain markets on edge.

As noted in the Aug. 23 Wheat Letter article A Risky Proposition, Russia implemented export taxes twice and completely banned wheat exports twice over the past decade. Each time, those policy changes resulted in significant, rapid price movement. Russia currently has an export tax on wheat that is set at zero percent, though it can adjust that tax at any time.

While Russia and Ukraine policies are adjusting to decreased domestic production and resulting increases in domestic prices, in Argentina, an export tax has been implemented in an attempt to shore up the domestic currency, which has fallen more than 50 percent compared to the U.S. dollar year over year. On Sept. 3, Argentina President Macri announced a 4 peso per dollar export tax on wheat and corn shipments.

According to International Grains Council (IGC) data, Argentine wheat has averaged $252 per metric ton (MT) since the beginning of the 2018/19 marketing year on June 1. This export tax will raise Argentine wheat prices by roughly 10 percent at today’s exchange rate of 39 Argentine pesos to 1 U.S. dollar, or about $25 per MT, on average. Argentine wheat production is expected to total 19.5 MMT, up 8 percent from 2017/18 and 35 percent above the 5-year average.

These policy changes and uncertainty from three of the world’s top wheat exporters come at a time when global wheat consumption is increasing and with it, the need for additional global exportable supply. USDA expects 2018/19 world wheat trade to rise 1 percent to a new record high of 184 MMT; if realized, it would be 6 percent greater than the 5-year average of 174 MMT.

With all of the uncertainty in the global wheat futures today, the U.S. wheat industry commitment to being the world’s most reliable supplier remains constant. Your local U.S. Wheat Associates representative stands ready to help with any questions about the U.S. marketing system, U.S. wheat supply and demand situation and U.S. wheat pricing.

To track U.S. wheat prices, subscribe to the USW Weekly Price Report.

By law, the only way to block U.S. grain exports is through a presidential declaration of national emergency. Importantly, a national emergency does NOT include short-term, fundamental rises in wheat prices or weakness in the U.S dollar. Further, the U.S. Constitution expressly forbids export taxes.

By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst

On Aug. 10, USDA increased its U.S. wheat export forecast to 27.9 million metric tons (MMT), up 14 percent from 2017/18, if realized. With 2018/19 global wheat production falling to 730 MMT, down 4 percent year over year, and supply in exporting countries shrinking to the lowest level in four years, USDA seems to anticipate global demand turning to U.S. wheat supply. That raises two questions:

  • Is there that much demand for U.S. wheat out there?
  • Can the U.S. grain transportation system handle the increase in wheat exports?

Is there that much demand for U.S. wheat out there?

Based on USDA estimates, global wheat trade will need to increase to a new record high of 184 MMT in 2018/19 to meet global wheat consumption. With Russia and the European Union (EU) wheat exports expected to decline by a combined 7.5 MMT in 2018/19, and the extreme drought in Australia threatening its exportable supply, it is logical that U.S. wheat supplies will fill a crucial role in global wheat consumption.

Still, the United States will need to record an additional 19.6 MMT of export sales in the remaining 42 weeks of the 2018/19 marketing year, which began on June 1, or an increase in weekly sales from an average of 409,300 MT to 466,000 MT. Put another way, the United States needs to sell about two more vessels of wheat per week to reach the USDA estimate.

However, nearly two-thirds of that increase could come from just the top 20 U.S. customers, excluding China, based on historic buying patterns. For example, the top five U.S. wheat customers — Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, Nigeria and Korea — imported an average of 11.4 MMT of U.S. wheat exports the past five years. U.S. export sales to many top customers are behind last year’s pace, traders report continued interest in U.S. wheat and note that many customers are engaging in “just-in-time” buying patterns that result in large, last minute shipments that are challenging logistically. And that leads to the question:

Can the U.S. grain transportation system handle the increase in wheat exports?

The short answer is, “it depends.” The slightly longer answer is, “it depends on weather and trade policies.” Both of which are relative unknowns at this point. One thing is certain. Winter is coming and will bring, as it always does to some extent, cold weather and snow across the U.S. Northern Plains and Pacific Northwest (PNW) and ice and fog on the Mississippi River system, along with associated commodity movement delays.

During the winter months of December, January and February, U.S. Gulf all grain exports — including corn, sorghum, soybeans and wheat — average 6.67 MMT per month, down 24 percent from the peak month of October when 8.81 MMT of grain typically moves through the ports. For comparison, PNW all grain winter month exports average 3.13 MMT per month. This is an average 19 percent below the PNW peak export month of October when all grain PNW exports average 3.86 MMT.

Trade policies will determine how much competition U.S. wheat exports face for freight and export elevation. U.S. Gulf grain exports center around four main commodities — corn, sorghum, soybeans and wheat, while U.S. PNW grain exports typically include barley, canola, corn, flaxseed, sorghum, soybeans and wheat. In the Gulf, soybeans account for roughly two-thirds of total grain shipments during the peak fall months of October and November. In the PNW, it is closer to 75 percent.

USDA’s August estimate is based on the current, enacted trade policies. As such, USDA expects U.S. feed grain and soybean exports to decrease by a combined 3.53 MMT year over year due primarily to decreased demand from China. In theory, reduced U.S. feed grains and soybean exports should increase freight and export elevation availability for wheat. However, through Aug. 16, there are already 8.86 MMT of U.S. corn export sales booked for the 2018/19 marketing year (beginning Sept. 1).  That is up 54 percent from last year and 12 percent above the 5-year average. U.S. soybean export sales for the new marketing year (beginning Sept. 1) are also up 45 percent year over year at 11.5 MMT. That increased drain on export capacity and the tightening global feed grain supply situation, as discussed in Ahead of USDA Report, Wheat Futures on a Powder Keg, indicate there may be upside potential for USDA’s estimates even with the existing uncertainty around U.S. trade policies. Customers should carefully watch the corn, soybean and feed grain supply and demand situation as it will impact freight and export elevation demand. While the expectation is that U.S. soybean and corn exports will be down, right now the data suggests otherwise.

With increased global demand for U.S. wheat likely and an uncertain outlook for U.S. transportation logistics, customers should take a serious look at the benefits of securing U.S. wheat supplies now. As always, the U.S. wheat store is open and ready to supply high-quality wheat — there just may be longer lines at checkout this year.


U.S. farmers growing soft red winter (SRW) wheat, especially in the East Coast states, experienced difficult growing conditions in 2018 with excessive moisture affecting test weight, falling number and DON values. Overall, however, several grade factors in the 2018 SRW crop are better than the 5-year averages, protein is somewhat above average, and DON is somewhat below average. Processors should find good qualities for crackers and segments of the crop with good cookie and cake qualities. With higher protein and good extensibility, the crop should also be valuable in blending for baking applications.

That is a summary of results from the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) 2018 SRW Crop Quality Report, now posted online here. To complete the report, Great Plains Analytical Laboratory in Kansas City, Mo., collected and analyzed 265 samples from 18 reporting areas in the 11 states that account for most of U.S. SRW 2018 production. USW and the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service fund the annual survey.

Wheat and Grade Data

With analysis result weighted by estimated state production, the average grade of all samples collected for the 2018 SRW harvest survey is U.S. No. 3. The weighted average test weight is 57.9 lb/bu (76.2 kg/hl), slightly below the 59.1 lb/bu (77.1 kg/hl) 2017 average. The Gulf Port average of 58.2 lb/bu is similar to the 5-year average of 58.4 lb/bu (76.8 kg/hl). The East Coast test weight average of 56.6 lb/bu (74.5 kg/hl) is below both last year. All other grade factors, dockage and moisture are similar to or lower than 2017 average values. The Gulf Port Total Defects average of 0.8% is below the previous 5-year minimum, indicating that damaged and shrunken and broken kernels are unusually low in that portion of the crop.

The composite average wheat protein content of 9.9% (12% moisture basis) is higher than 2017’s 9.5% and the 5-year average of 9.7%. Both the Gulf Port protein average of 9.9% and East Coast average of 10.2% are above the 2017 and 5-year averages. The composite average falling number of 322 seconds is similar to 2017. The Gulf Port average of 327 seconds is slightly above last year, while the East Coast average of 301 seconds is slightly below last year. Fewer than 10% of samples had a falling number below 250 seconds in 2018. The composite DON average of 0.7 ppm is above the very low 2017 value of 0.2 ppm but is below the 5-year average of 1.3 ppm. The East Coast value of 1.1 ppm is similar to the 5-year average while the Gulf Port value of 0.7 ppm is below the 5-year average. Of the samples tested for DON, 75 percent of the Gulf Port results and 65 percent 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 2017 and the 5-year averages. The farinograph peak values are similar to 5-year averages, but the stability and absorption values are all below last year and the 5-year averages. The SRC values generally indicate acceptable quality for crackers; some Gulf Port areas also have acceptable SRC values for cookies. The composite and Gulf Port alveograph L averages of 97 and 98 are higher than last year and the respective 5-year average of 89 for both, indicating good extensibility.

All other alveograph averages are similar to the respective 5-year averages given the variability of alveograph analysis. The Gulf amylograph average of 614 BU indicates good quality for cakes. The composite and Gulf Port cookie spread ratios are all higher than last year and similar to the 5-year averages, again indicating good extensibility. Average loaf volumes are also all higher than last year and the 5-year averages.

USW will share complete data for all classes of U.S. wheat with hundreds of overseas customers at several upcoming events, including USW’s annual Crop Quality Seminars, and in its annual Crop Quality Report. Buyers are encouraged to review their quality specifications to ensure that their purchases meet their expectations.

View the 2018 Soft Red Winter Crop Quality Report here. 


By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst

USDA updated its monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) on August 10 and expects the global wheat supply and demand situation to be more favorable for U.S. farmers this year due to shrinking global wheat production. USDA lowered its global wheat production estimate by 6.63 million metric tons (MMT) to 730 MMT, down 4 percent year over year and the lowest level since 2014/15, if realized.

Widespread drought across Germany and northern Europe is one reason why USDA dropped its production forecast. USDA expects European Union total wheat production to fall to 138 MMT, 9 percent below both the 5-year average and 2017/18 production. With smaller EU wheat production, USDA lowered marketing year 2018/19 (June 1 to May 31) EU wheat exports to 23.0 MMT. If realized, that would be 2 percent below the year prior, and 25 percent below the 5-year average.

At the same time, USDA also expects Russian wheat production to fall 20 percent year over year to 68.0 MMT due to unfavorable winter wheat planting and growing conditions. With Russian wheat supplies shrinking, the 2018/19 Russian wheat export forecast is down 7.00 MMT from 2017/18 to 35.0 MMT.

With lower exportable wheat supplies (production plus beginning stocks minus domestic consumption) in Russia and the EU, USDA expects the United States to have the largest exportable supply of wheat in the world in 2018/19 at 49.7 MMT.

Consequently, USDA expects 2018/19 U.S. wheat exports to reach 27.9 MMT, up 14 percent from 2017/18 and 7 percent above the 5-year average, if realized. Still, U.S. wheat export sales pace will need to increase to meet this goal, as year-to-date U.S. wheat export sales total just 7.53 MMT or 27 percent of USDA’s anticipated total.

The shrinking global wheat supply, increasing global wheat consumption and large U.S. wheat supply have all lead to U.S. wheat futures rallies over the past month. Since the last WASDE update on July 12, U.S. HRW futures are up 72 cents per bushel ($26 per MT), SRW futures grew 54 cents per bushel ($20 per MT) and HRS climbed 67 cents per bushel ($25 per MT).

Each month, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) updates a graphic summary of USDA’s WASDE (World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates) report. View the August summary here.


By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst

Wheat prices are in for a wild ride. Just last week, all it took to trigger a limit up move in futures prices was a rumor that Ukraine might restrict milling wheat exports. Although the market took back most of those gains after the rumor was retracted, Chicago soft red winter (SRW) futures ended the week up 5 percent while Kansas City hard red winter (HRW) climbed 6 percent and Minneapolis hard red spring (HRS) increased 3 percent.

That short-term volatility is indicative of how tightly wound global wheat markets are, and the next big price move could be triggered on Aug. 10 when USDA updates its monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate (WASDE). We will look for factors that could trigger additional price moves including changes to production, export demand and world feed grain supply estimates.

Shrinking Global Wheat Production. A saying among wheat people suggests that at harvest, “big crops get bigger and small crops get smaller.” This seems to be a “small crop” year with analysts and traders alike expecting USDA to reduce world production estimates based on new harvest numbers from France, Germany, Poland and Russia. Current estimates from Stratégie Grains put EU common wheat production (excluding durum) below 130 MMT, down 8 percent year over year if realized.

The Russian Ministry of Agriculture expects 2018/19 Russian wheat production to total 64.4 MMT, down 25 percent from the year prior. According to analysts at IKAR, sprouting and disease pressure from late season rains further decreased Russian exportable supply. Australian wheat production may also be reduced as the region that produces Australian Prime Hard and Australian Hard wheat is experiencing “the worst drought in living memory.”

Bullish supply news has pushed both U.S. and global wheat prices higher in recent weeks. Since July 13, U.S. HRW futures are up 75 cents per bushel ($28 per metric ton [MT]), SRW futures grew 59 cents per bushel ($22 per MT) and HRS climbed 81 cents per bushel ($30 per MT). At the same time, free-on-board (FOB) prices paid by Algeria and Egypt for wheat in public tenders have increased an average 90 cents per bushel ($33 per MT).

Changes to Wheat Exports. United States. Despite global FOB wheat prices climbing at a faster rate than U.S. wheat futures, U.S. wheat exports remain slow. Through July 27, U.S. wheat export sales totaled 7.20 MMT, down 28 percent from 2017/18. That pace must quicken soon to meet USDA’s current U.S. wheat export forecast of 26.5 MMT.

Ukraine. Each year, the Ukraine Agricultural Ministry signs a memorandum with grain exporters outlining an agreed volume of milling wheat trade not subject to government restriction. This year, the proposed volume is 8.0 MMT, down from 10.0 MMT exported in 2017/18. Milling wheat exports generally make up a little more than half of the country’s wheat exports. In July, USDA forecast Ukraine total wheat exports (milling and feed wheat) at 16.5 MMT, down 1.0 MT from 2017/18.

Decreases to the Global Feed Grain Supply. While higher wheat prices would normally ration feed wheat demand, tightening global feed grain supply and demand is creating a price floor for global wheat prices. USDA expects global feed grain consumption — barley, corn, mixed grains, oats, rye and sorghum — to outpace global feed grain production by 34.1 MMT in 2018/19. With global consumption outpacing global production for the second year in a row, USDA anticipates global feed grain ending stocks falling to 179 MMT, the lowest level since 2012/13.

As we have suggested (Lower U.S. Wheat Prices Are an Anomaly and An Excellent Opportunity), U.S. and global wheat prices are sitting on a powder keg with an anticipated global stocks-to-use ratio (excluding China) of 19 percent, a level that has not been seen since 2007/08. Both U.S. and global wheat prices have rallied in recent weeks. Continued reports of quality damage and lower yields in the EU and Russia and drought conditions in Australia indicate the 2018/19 crop is shrinking. If last week’s limit up movement is any indication, wheat prices could go much higher very quickly if additional bullish news comes out.

To track U.S. wheat export basis levels and prices, subscribe to the USW Weekly Price Report.


By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Assistant Director of Communications

This week, the Wheat Quality Council hosted its annual hard red spring (HRS) and durum crop tour. Participants spent three days mainly in North Dakota surveying this year’s crop and estimating yield. The tour, which surveyed a total of 342 fields, estimated weighted average HRS yield at 41.1 bushels per acre (bu/a), slightly higher than last year’s HRS average of 38.1 bu/a, which was impacted by ongoing drought conditions in western areas. The durum weighted average yield was 39.3 bu/a, in line with last year’s average of 39.7 bu/a, which was a decline from 45.4 bu/a in 2016. While the overall crop looks better than last year, it is still below the tour’s 5-year average of 45.4 bu/ac.

Participants on the tour always represent a wide range of the wheat industry, including millers, traders, farmers, researchers, government officials and media who travel along eight distinct routes covering most of the state’s wheat production.

“The continuing success of this tour is that we make it a value-added experience,” said Wheat Quality Council Executive Vice President Dave Green. “We keep training more and more people and that makes a difference across this industry.”

On the first day, participants drove west from Fargo to Bismarck, with two routes going farther into the western part of the state, and others covering western Minnesota and northern South Dakota. The Day 1 weighted average yield was 41.1 bu/a, up from 38.8 bu/a in 2017. For HRS specifically, the yield was 41.3 bu/a, down from 37.9 bu/a in 2017. The scouts surveyed 138 fields on Day 1, of which 135 were HRS and 3 were durum.

On Day 2, the tour surveyed 148 fields, 135 of which were HRS and 13 were durum. The group moved from Bismarck to Devils Lake. The overall average for Day 2 was 38.8 bu/a, up from 35.7 in 2017. For HRS, the yield was 38.3 bu/a, up slightly from 35.8.

The third day of the tour included a half day of crop surveying. The participants then all returned to North Dakota State University’s Northern Crops Institute in Fargo to compile the overall crop report. On Day 3, participants surveyed at total of 55 HRS fields and one durum field. The Day 3 weighted average yield for HRS was 45.6 bu/a, down slightly from 46.2 bu/a in 2017.

The results reflect a snapshot of yield potential observed by the participants in the fields they scouted.

“I think what we saw was kind of encouraging in part because there had been concern about scab with this crop, but we saw a lot of spraying for it; and we never felt that more than a handful of fields had a serious scab problem,” said Green. “And we were scouting for it, so we were very positive about what we saw.”

Green added, “I’m also positive that we thought we were headed for a lower protein record relative to how good everything looked going in, but I wouldn’t say the same thing now that we’ve seen the crop. I think it is going to have a wide range of protein and a lot of choices for buyers. I would anticipate that with the heat that us on the crop, the quality is going to be better than normal.”

View highlights and photos from the tour by searching #wheattour18 on Facebook and Twitter. For more information and for results from previous tours, visit the Wheat Quality Council’s website at www.wheatqualitycouncil.org.


By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst


There is an old saying: “When there’s blood on the streets, buy property.” Given recent price movements, that could easily be changed to: “When trade policies are in the news, buy wheat.”


Since the steel and aluminum tariffs went into full effect for major U.S. wheat customers, September Kansas City hard red winter (HRW) wheat futures have fallen 51 cents per bushel ($19 per metric ton [MT]), September Chicago soft red winter (SRW) wheat futures dropped 25 cents per bushel ($9 per MT) and Minneapolis hard red spring (HRS) plunged 58 cents per bushel ($21 per MT).


Seasonal harvest pressure always impacts U.S. wheat prices during the summer months; however, this year the unique trade environment is also pressuring export demand and driving U.S. wheat prices lower. As of July 19, U.S. export sales for marketing year 2018/19 (June 1 to May 31) totaled 6.43 MMT, down 32 percent year over year. Exporters note that customers are choosing to purchase smaller than normal volumes of U.S. wheat, just what they need for the short-term or are waiting to make purchases, noting uncertainty about U.S. trade policies and their own countries’ retaliatory measures. Sales to the top five U.S. wheat customers — Mexico, Japan, the Philippines, Korea and Nigeria — are 27 percent behind last year’s pace.


Futures v Global S&D

U.S. wheat futures prices are not reflecting global supply and demand realities. Buyers are uncertain about the effects of unforeseen tariff wars and have altered their typical wheat import cadences.

With trade policy issues dominating the headlines, U.S. wheat futures markets are mostly ignoring global wheat supply and demand fundamentals, which can be seen in competitors’ wheat prices. The average global wheat price is up 41 cents per bushel ($15 per MT) with larger increases noted in Australia and Argentina, which compete with the United States in key quality-driven markets. According to International Grains Council (IGC) data, the average price of Australian wheat is up $19 per MT and the average price of Argentine wheat is up $75 per MT. These price increases are driven by increased global wheat demand, shrinking global wheat supplies and their location.


USDA noted in last week’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand estimates that global wheat production will fall to 737 MMT in 2018/19, the first drop in 5 years and down 3 percent from 2017/18. Decreased production is expected in the European Union (EU), Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Australia. While the United States, Canada and Argentina are expected to have increased production, exporter supplies are expected to fall 20.2 MMT year over year.


Simultaneously, many importers are engaging in “just in time” purchases since wheat price movement has rewarded their patience the last few years. USDA expects importer ending stocks to fall to 49.8 MMT in 2018/19, the lowest amount in a decade.


While importer stocks are shrinking, USDA expects global wheat demand to surge to a new record high of 749 MMT, 4 percent above the 5-year average. That means that global wheat consumption will outpace global wheat production by 12.6 MMT this year and drop the global wheat stocks-to-use ratio (excluding China) to less than 20 percent. A level that has not been seen since 2007/08.


For perspective, in July 2007 all three wheat futures were above $6.00 per bushel ($220 per MT) and would continue climbing until March 2008 when prices peaked at $11.60 per bushel ($426 per MT) for SRW, $12.17 per bushel ($447 per MT) for HRW and $17.30 per bushel ($636 per MT) for HRS. On Friday, July 20, those three futures were at $5.16 per bushel ($190 per MT), $5.08 per bushel ($187 per MT) and $5.55 per bushel ($204 per MT), respectively, indicating there is a lot of room for upward mobility.


With exporter supplies shrinking and importers continuing a “just in time” purchasing pattern, global wheat prices are sitting on a powder keg that trade policy issues are currently disguising. Customers should take advantage of current U.S. futures price levels and lock in the competitive prices.


To track U.S. wheat export prices, subscribe to the USW Weekly Price Report.


By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst

USDA raised 2018/19 U.S. wheat production to 51.2 million metric tons (MMT), up 8 percent from 2017/18, if realized. Along with the increase, USDA also released its first U.S. by-class forecast for U.S. wheat. Increases in hard red spring (HRS), soft red winter (SRW) and soft white (SW) wheat are expected to more than offset a 12 percent year over year reduction in hard red winter (HRW). U.S. spring wheat production is expected to increase to 15.9 MMT, up 52 percent from the previous year when drought shriveled the crop.

But while wheat production is expected to increase in the United States, it is expected to fall globally in 2018/19. USDA forecast 2018/19 total world wheat production at 736 MMT, down 3 percent from the year prior, if realized. The largest decrease is expected in Russia, which is forecast to produce 67.0 MMT, down 18.0 MMT from 2017/18 due to poor growing conditions. Wheat production is also expected to fall in the European Union (EU) and Australia due to dry conditions.

While 2018/19 world wheat production is expected to fall for the first time in 5 years, world wheat consumption is expected to grow 5.23 MMT from the previous year to 749 MMT. If realized, world wheat consumption will outpace world wheat production by 12.6 MMT in 2018/19.

With consumption outpacing production, world wheat ending stocks are expected to fall to 261 MMT, down 5 percent from 2017/18. The reduction in ending stocks puts the 2018/19 global stocks-to-use ratio (excluding China) just under 20 percent, which is the lowest level since 2007/08.