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With the 2018 U.S. winter wheat harvest complete and October right around the corner, U.S. wheat farmers are now seeding a new crop. Across the 18 states that represent 90 percent of the area planted to winter wheat last year, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) estimates that 28 percent of the 2019 crop was planted as of September 23.

 

An image of wheat planting that caught our eye came recently from John McManigal, who grows soft white wheat with his family in Wasco County, Ore. John is an excellent agricultural field photographer and, with Mt. Hood looming over this mid-Columbia region, has a remarkable landscape on which to work. The photo he shared with U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) that we have posted here and his words tell an inspiring story of hope and renewal.

 

Seeding in Dust, Wasco County, Oregon,

Photo © John McManigal, Used with Permission

 

The Substation Fire started Tuesday, July 17, on US 197 near The Dalles, Ore., about 3:30 p.m. By evening it had raced east across Wasco County, jumped the Deschutes River and started up into Sherman County. The next day brought more wind. The fire gathered itself again and started another run to the east. By the end of the day on Wednesday, Mid-Columbia Producers figured roughly 2 million bushels of wheat went up in smoke.”

 

“That is my son Brad in the photograph seeding on Rich Kortge Farms, only about five miles east of where the Substation Fire started. This field had been left fallow last season but the vegetative cover was lost to the fire. The field in the background to the left of the fence was standing wheat that went up in flames on the afternoon of July 17.”

 

“It has not rained in months here and the seeding conditions look a little bleak.”

 

“But you know farmers. Maybe next year…”

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U.S. farmers are making good progress now on the second half of their 2018 winter wheat harvests and U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) wants to provide a mid-season look at winter wheat harvest and quality in this “Wheat Letter” entry. USW publishes a new Harvest Report every Friday on this website.

 

Soft Red Winter (SRW) harvest of a crop that was quite affected by rain throughout the growing season is now complete. Planted area was up somewhat compared to last year’s record low level. With abundant rain, yields were above average for the year but test weights from crops in both the East Coast and Gulf port tributaries are less than last year and the 5-year average. That knocks down the U.S. Grade for this crop to #3 SRW. DON levels are slightly higher in 2018 but are below the 5-year average. Processers should find good qualities for crackers overall and for cookies from segments of the crop. With higher protein and good extensibility, the crop should also be valuable for blending for baking applications. USW will post the final SRW quality report within the next few weeks.

John Hoffman SRW Wheat

Past USW Director John Hoffman of Circleville, Ohio, just beat the rain to complete his 2018 SRW harvest.

 

Hard Red Winter (HRW) harvest is more than 80 percent complete and buyers should want to take a very good look at the 2018 crop. Starting with another record low planted area, USDA believes farmers will harvest 17.9 million metric tons (MMT) of HRW this year or 12 percent less than in 2017. That amount is likely to change as USDA measures the effects of abandoned area in drought stressed areas of the Southern Plains. For buyers, however, this is a very good supply of HRW with composite protein holding at 12.6% (12% moisture) and test weights at 79.7 kg/hl (60.6 lb/bu). Quality reports from Montana’s harvest are even better. While flour and dough properties are just being measured for this crop, domestic millers and processors are saying they like what they see in this HRW crop.

HRW Harvest Peter Miller

HRW farmer Peter Miller of Lodgepole, Nebraska, posted this photo on his Twitter account @pmiller1320 on July 23.

 

Soft White (SW) winter wheat growing conditions across the Pacific Northwest (PNW) were nearly ideal for the 2018 crop. As of Aug. 3, the PNW SW harvest was 55% complete in Oregon (sadly aided by destructive fires in the north-central part of the state), 28% in Washington and 12% in Idaho. Industry sources say continued dry weather has pushed progress beyond those levels since early this week. Dryland yields are well above normal and early quality analysis indicate good test weight at 61.8 lb/bu (81.3 kg/hl), very low moisture content at 8.4%, low protein at 9.4% (12% moisture basis), and sound falling number value at 305 seconds.

Harvest Time Logan Padget

Logan Padget, son of USW Secretary-Treasurer Darren Padget, of Grass Valley, Oregon, posted this beautiful image of SW “Harvest Time” on their farm July 23.

 

We hope you will subscribe to USW’s Harvest Report and if you want to ask questions about this year’s crops or about other topics related to U.S. wheat and U.S. wheat exports, visit our new “Ask the Expert” section of this website at https://www.uswheat.org/market-and-crop-information/ask-the-expert/.

 

U.S. Wheat Associates Board of Directors Header

Generally cool spring conditions delayed the start of the 2018/19 U.S. winter wheat harvest, but the combines are now in the fields and U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) published a preliminary Harvest Report on May 25. USW Harvest Reports are published every Friday afternoon, Eastern Daylight Time, throughout the season with updates and comments on harvest progress, crop conditions and current crop quality for hard red winter (HRW), soft red winter (SRW), hard red spring (HRS), soft white (SW) and durum wheat.

The weekly Harvest Report is a key component of USW’s international technical and marketing programs. It is a resource that helps customers understand how the crop situation may affect basis values and export prices.

USW’s 14 overseas offices share the report with their market contacts and use it as a key resource for answering inquiries and meeting with customers. USW also publishes the report in Spanish as  “Trigonoticias,” distributed to Latin American wheat buyers and millers and posted on www.uswheat.org.

Anyone may register to subscribe to an email version of the Harvest Report. For the first time this year, USW includes links in the email to additional wheat condition and grading information, including the U.S. Drought Monitor, USDA/NASS Crop Progress and National Wheat Statistics, the official FGIS wheat grade standards and USDA’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report. Harvest Reports are also posted online at www.uswheat.org/harvest.

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By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst

With the small, stressed hard red winter (HRW) wheat crop getting the lion’s share of attention, it was an initial surprise to read in USDA’s May World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) that U.S. wheat production is expected to increase to 49.6 million metric tons (MMT) in 2018/19. That would be up 5 percent year over year, if realized.

The forecast increase is a result of greater harvested area and slightly higher average yield in the other classes. USDA forecast 2018/19 all wheat average yield at 46.8 bushels per acre (3.15 metric tons [MT] per hectare), up from 46.3 bushels per acre (3.11 MT per hectare) last year. Harvested area is expected to increase 1.3 million acres (526,000 hectares) in 2018/19. Crop condition ratings also matter in this forecast, and as the following by-class reviews show, HRW is clearly the exception to the up-trend in production.

HRW production is expected to be the smallest since 2006/07 at 17.6 MMT. If realized, that would be down 14 percent year over year and 22 percent below the 5-year average. Low farm-gate prices and poor planting weather last fall reduced 2018/19 U.S. HRW planted area to 23.2 million acres (9.4 million hectares), the second lowest planted area on record. That poor start coupled with widespread drought throughout the U.S. Southern Plains set up the current situation where harvested HRW acres are expected to fall 5 percent from 2017/18 to 16.5 million acres (6.68 million hectares).

The large decrease in harvested acres is centralized in the U.S. Southern Plains where HRW crop condition ratings remain poor. In top HRW-producing states of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, 51 percent, 65 percent, and 59 percent of HRW is rated poor or very poor, respectively. As a consequence of the drought and resulting poor crop conditions, USDA expects harvested area in Oklahoma to fall 31 percent year over year to 2.0 million acres (810,000 hectares). On May 10, USDA rated 25 percent of HRW in the states surveyed in good to excellent condition, while 45 percent is rated poor or very poor. Read more about the all too evident challenge of wheat farming on the High Plains.

Soft red winter (SRW) production is expected to increase to 8.57 MMT in 2018/19. If realized, that would be up 8 percent year over year, but still 22 percent below the 5-year average. 2018/19 U.S. SRW harvested area is expected to increase 8 percent from the year prior to 4.0 million acres (1.62 million hectares). USDA also expects record high yields in Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland and Michigan due to favorable growing conditions this spring.

On May 14, USDA noted week over week crop condition rating improvements in nearly all SRW-growing states, with 67 percent of the SRW acres surveyed rated good to excellent. Week over week improvements were noted in Illinois and Arkansas where 63 percent of SRW was rated good to excellent, up 10 percentage points and 5 percentage points, respectively, from the week prior.

White wheat.* 2018/19 white winter wheat production is forecast at 6.24 MMT, including 5.66 MMT of soft white (SW) winter wheat and 577,000 MT of hard white (HW) winter wheat. If realized, SW winter wheat production would be up 2 percent year over year, due to increased planted area, while HW winter wheat production would be down 11 percent from 2017/18 due to forecast reduction in average yield. SW winter wheat production is centralized in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington. As of May 14, 71 percent of Idaho SW, 80 percent of Oregon SW and 85 percent of Washington SW was rated in good to excellent condition.

Desert Durum®. USDA expects Desert Durum® production — centralized in Arizona and California and planted in the winter — to total 332,000 MT, up 6 percent from 2017/18 due to significantly better yields in California. In Arizona, the Desert Durum® crop was 90 percent headed by April 29, significantly ahead of the year prior’s pace.

Spring wheat and Northern durum. Snow covered, frozen fields delayed spring wheat and Northern durum planting this year, but U.S. farmers are beginning to catch up. As of May 14, spring wheat and durum planting is 58 percent complete, up from just 30 percent complete the week prior, but still behind the 5-year average pace of 67 percent.

With spring planting still underway, USDA did not provide a by-class breakdown of production for hard red spring (HRS) and durum on May 10. However, USDA did note that combined spring wheat and Northern durum production is projected to increase 34 percent year over year due to “both increased area and yield.” With total U.S. wheat production projected at 49.6 MMT and U.S. winter wheat production projected at 32.4 MMT, that puts 2018/19 spring wheat — including soft white spring, HRS, and hard white spring — and durum production at 17.2 MMT.

Back on March 29, USDA projected U.S. HRS planted area at 12.1 million acres (4.9 million hectares). If farmers are able to realize their planting intentions despite the late start, that would be up 17 percent year over year. Northern durum planted area was forecast at 1.88 million acres (760,000 hectares), down 14 percent, if realized. Still, weather will play a role in farmers’ decisions, and a late spring in Montana and western North Dakota tends to favor increased wheat area. Conversely, it tends to favor increased corn and soybean acres in Minnesota.

To stay in touch with U.S. wheat harvest progress, subscribe to the U.S. Wheat Associates Weekly Harvest Reports, which will start later this month.

*In the May 10 report, USDA combined data for soft white winter wheat and hard white winter wheat. Both soft white (SW) and hard white (HW) can be grown in either the spring or fall. USDA will provide a wheat by-class outlook in July. Similarly, data for HRS, SW spring, HW spring and spring-planted durum were combined into a general “spring-planted wheat” category.

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By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst

According to the March 29 USDA Prospective Plantings report, U.S. total spring-planted area will jump to an estimated 14.1 million acres (5.71 million hectares), 12 percent above 2017/18, if realized. The estimate includes 12.1 million acres (4.90 million hectares) of hard red spring (HRS), up 17 percent from 2017, if realized. It is important to note that this is an estimate, as farmers in the top four HRS producing states of Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota have not started planting due to extremely cold, snowy weather across the region.

USDA expects a 1.05 million acre (425,000 hectare) increase in North Dakota spring wheat area, which is forecast at 6.40 million acres (2.59 million hectares). If realized, that would be up 20 percent year over year. Spring wheat acres in Minnesota are also expected to increase 38 percent from 2017/18 levels to 1.6 million acres (648,000 hectares). South Dakota 2018/19 HRS planted area is forecast at 1.05 million acres (425,000 hectares), up 80,000 acres (32,000 hectares). However, the planting window for spring wheat in North Dakota and Minnesota is no more than three weeks; after that the yield potential starts to decrease and farmers choose to plant alternative crops.

“This cold, wet spring could work against spring wheat planting in eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota,” said Mike Krueger, an independent market analyst based in North Dakota. “Farmers in these areas are reluctant to plant spring wheat after late April and right now the forecast is calling for another two weeks of cold weather and snow. If planting is delayed until May, we will probably see a switch to soybeans or other crops.”

USDA forecast Montana HRS planted area at 2.50 million acres (1.00 million hectares), in line with 2017/18 planted area. But, in contrast to eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota, the late spring may increase HRS planted acres in parts of Montana according to Cassidy Marn, marketing program manager with the Montana Wheat & Barley Committee.

“Farmers in Montana have fewer alternatives and, since we can only grow limited quantities of corn and soybeans here, wheat tends to be the last alternative,” said Marn. “Planting peas and lentils is possible, but given the amount of snow we still have on frozen ground, some farmers could miss the window for those crops. Planting spring wheat in June is not ideal, but it is preferable to planting nothing.”

USDA expects U.S. durum planted area to total 2.00 million acres (809,000 hectares), down 13 percent from 2017/18, if realized. The predicted decline is driven in large part by USDA’s expectation that North Dakota farmers will switch from durum to HRS or oilseed crops due to lower returns on durum in recent years. In addition, growers near the border are frustrated by a large volume of durum freely crossing the border from Canada that increases pressure on durum prices. Weather conditions will also affect durum planting decisions.

USDA also updated the winter wheat planted area from its January 2018 estimate, increasing winter wheat planted area by 50,000 acres (20,000 hectares) to 32.7 million acres (13.2 million hectares). The new estimate is still 2 percent below the 2017/18 planted area. The increase came from hard red winter (HRW) area, estimated at 23.2 million acres (9.39 million hectares), up slightly from the previous projection, but still 2 percent below the year prior and 17 percent below the 5-year average.

The decreased HRW planted area makes crop conditions even more crucial. The April 2 USDA Crop Progress report rated 10 percent of Kansas HRW, 9 percent of Oklahoma HRW and 17 percent of South Dakota winter wheat as good, with virtually none of the crop rated as excellent in those states.

Soft red winter (SRW) planted area decreased from the previous estimate to 5.85 million acres (2.37 million hectares), but is still 4 percent above 2017/18 planted area. Overall, conditions for SRW are similar to what growers faced at the same time last year with a majority of the crop rated in good to excellent condition.

USDA expects white wheat acres — planted in both winter and spring — to reach 4.15 million acres (1.68 million hectares) for 2018/19, up 3 percent from 2017/18, but in line with the 5-year average. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows adequate moisture for Washington, but southern Idaho and Oregon are experiencing abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions. Still, USDA reported that the majority of the white wheat crop in those states are in good to excellent condition.

The expected increase in spring wheat area would increase total U.S. wheat planted area to 47.3 million acres (19.1 million hectares) in 2018/19, up 3 percent year over year. The increase was unexpected, but if realized it would still be the second lowest planted wheat area since 1919 when USDA records began.

As always, spring brings the waiting game — all we can do is watch how the crops respond to conditions going forward.

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By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst

Six months into marketing year 2017/18 (June to May), total U.S. export sales of 19.5 million metric tons (MMT) are 8 percent behind last year’s pace according to USDA Export Sales data through Jan. 4. However, the estimated total value of U.S. wheat export sales is 4 percent greater than last year on the same date at $4.72 billion, due to slightly higher export prices according to USDA Export Sales data and USW Price Report data.

A deeper analysis of USDA data shows total sales to six of the top 10 U.S. export markets in 2016/17 are ahead of last year’s pace, demonstrating strong demand for U.S. wheat. Sales of soft red winter (SRW) and soft white (SW) are both ahead of last year’s pace. USDA projects total 2017/18 exports will fall slightly to 26.5 MMT, which, if realized, would be 8 percent below 2016/17 but 1 percent above the 5-year average pace.

USDA reported hard red winter (HRW) year-to-date exports at 7.79 MMT, down 10 percent from the prior year. Still, 2017/18 export sales are 10 percent ahead of the 5-year average due to competitive prices for medium protein HRW and the good, overall quality of this year’s crop. The estimated value of year-to-date HRW export sales is 6 percent above 2016/17 due to a 14 percent increase in the average U.S. HRW free-on-board (FOB) price that is supported by the increased premiums for HRW with higher protein. Mexico is currently the number one HRW purchaser. As of Jan. 4, HRW sales to Mexico totaled 1.58 MMT, up 28 percent from last year’s pace. Sales to Indonesia are also up 28 percent year over year at 430,000 metric tons (MT). HRW purchases by Algeria total 456,000 MT, more than double last year’s sales on this date. To date, HRW sales to Venezuela totaling 120,000 MT are nearly four times great than the 2016/17 pace.

Both export sales volume and value of SRW for 2017/18 are up due to the excellent quality of this year’s crop and relatively competitive pricing. Export sales are up 7 percent year over year at 2.02 MMT, boosting estimated export sales value to $400 million, or 12 percent more so far this year. As of Jan. 4, total sales to 11 of the top 20 U.S. SRW export markets from 2016/17 are higher than last year. Sales to Colombia are 12 percent ahead of 2016/17 at 198,000 MT. Nigerian SRW purchases total 234,000 MT, up 12 percent from last year. Sales to other Central and South American countries, including Brazil, Peru, Panama, Venezuela and El Salvador, are also ahead of the 2016/17 pace.

Hard red spring (HRS) sales of 5.15 MMT are down 25 percent year over year and 7 percent below the 5-year average. Higher prices due to smaller 2017/18 production have slowed HRS exports thus far in 2017/18, but global demand for HRS is strong. Year-to-date in 2017/18, the average FOB price of HRS is $293 per metric ton ($7.97 per bushel), compared to $241 per metric ton ($6.55/bu) in 2016/17, according to USW Price Report data. As of Jan. 4, buyers in Japan purchased 878,000 MT, up 20 percent from 2016/17. Sales to Taiwan of 518,000 MT are up 17 percent from last year’s sales on the same date. The Philippines continues to import the largest volume of HRS, though at a 6 percent slower pace so far.

As of Jan. 4, exports of soft white (SW) wheat are up 22 percent year over year at 4.30 MMT. That is 28 percent greater than the 5-year average. Sales to the top 10 SW customers are ahead of last year’s pace, supporting an estimated export value of $896 million, up 25 percent from the prior year. Philippine millers purchased 946,000 MT, up 16 percent compared to last year’s sales on the same date. South Korean sales are up 43 percent at 674,000 MT. U.S. SW sales to China, Thailand and Indonesia are also up. Year-to-date, Indonesia has purchased 515,000 MT, compared to total 2016/17 purchases of 270,000 MT. Thailand sales are up 18 percent year over year at 217,000 MT. Chinese purchases of 306,000 MT are already greater than 2016/17 total SW sales.

Year to date durum exports total 272,000 MT, down 32 percent from the same time last year, and below the 5-year average, with tighter supplies and resulting higher prices. The average export price for U.S. durum is up 5 percent over last year at this time according to USW Price Report data. To date, Nigeria, the European Union (EU), Algeria and Guatemala are the top durum buyers. A significant portion of the first quarter 2017/18 sales is designated as “sales to unknown designations.

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From USDA and Media Reports

Hours of work will come to fruition this week for market analysts at USDA and the farmers and buyers they serve. The results of some new reports provide an early look at the next U.S. winter wheat crop, which includes hard red winter (HRW), soft red winter (SRW) and fall-planted soft white (SW) classes.

Starting with a brief look back, we do know that U.S. farmers harvested the smallest area of wheat in 2017 since detailed records started in 1919. That was not a surprise because USDA had estimated planted area for all wheat classes, including spring wheat, for 2017/18 at a similar record low. Winter wheat planted area was down 9 percent from 2016/17.

New estimates suggest the base will be even lower for 2018/19. Reuters reported Nov. 28 that USDA estimates U.S. farmers are likely to expand corn and soybean plantings while reducing wheat seedings to 45.0 million acres for 2018/19, down from the record low of 46.0 million for 2017/18. Reuters noted that the forecasts are developed by consensus within the USDA on a long-term scenario for the agricultural sector for the next decade. USDA will release its complete report on projections for the next 10 years in February.

Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist for INTL FCStone, expects U.S. wheat farmers will continue plant less wheat because of the price pressure from the record global wheat stocks. He estimates seeded area will be down another 4 percent to 6 percent in 2018. Suderman said the strong U.S. dollar pressures demand for U.S. wheat while encouraging wheat expansion overseas, such as in the Black Sea region. He believes markets that value high quality wheat and strong protein offer stronger opportunity for U.S. wheat.

As a counterpoint, a poll by a national agricultural publication fielded last July suggests farmers may slightly increase wheat seedings. The Farm Futures magazine survey found growers wanting to boost wheat seedings by 2.5 million acres to 48.1 million, a 5.4 percent increase over 2017. The survey suggested that winter wheat would make up nearly 90 percent of that increase.

The first official estimate of winter wheat planted area from USDA will be released in its Prospective Plantings report in March 2018.

USDA’s latest conditions report released on Nov. 26 suggests the new HRW wheat crop seeded in the Central and Southern Plains is stressed by dry weather. Oklahoma farm broadcaster Ron Hays reported that “winter wheat crop ratings continue to slide as Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas wheat conditions all fell in the latest reporting week. Oklahoma has seen its good to excellent score on the 2018 wheat crop drop from 41 percent two weeks ago to 30 percent this week; Kansas dropped five points from two weeks ago to 51 percent good to excellent and Texas dropped ten percentage points to 36 percent good with no score for excellent in this week’s final weekly score of the season.”

On Nov. 30, USDA will issue a quarterly update to its forecast of U.S. farm exports for fiscal year 2018 (Oct. 2017 to Sept. 2018). In a previous report, USDA said the total of $140.5 billion for FY2017 ended a two-year decline and was the third-highest on record. USDA currently forecasts U.S. wheat exports for marketing year 2017/18 at 27.2 million metric tons (MMT), down slightly from 28.7 MMT in 2016/17.

Harvest Report

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

Full regional quality reports for the 2017 HRS, SW, northern durum and Desert Durum® crops are posted at www.uswheat.org/cropQuality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst

USDA’s Sept. 30 Small Grains Summary reported that U.S. farmers harvested 37.6 million acres (15.2 million hectares) of wheat for the 2017/18 crop, a 14 percent reduction from 2016/17 and the smallest harvested area since 1890. USDA estimated U.S. 2017/18 wheat production at 47.4 million metric tons (MMT) (1.74 billion bushels), down 25 percent year over year and 15 percent below the 5-year average. The smallest planted area since USDA record began in 1919, adverse weather conditions and wheat streak mosaic virus all contributed to reduced harvested area.

The largest beginning stocks since 1988/89 will partially offset lower production. USDA expects 2017/18 U.S. beginning stocks to total 32.2 MMT (1.18 billion bushels), up 21 percent year over year and 57 percent greater than the 5-year average. Total 2017/18 U.S. wheat supply is forecast at 79.6 MMT (2.92 billion bushels), down 11 percent from 2016/17 but in line with the 5-year average. Despite the sharp year over year reduction in yields, USDA expects the final average yield to reach 46.3 bu/acre (3.11 MT/ha), similar to the 5-year average of 46.6 bu/acre (3.13 MT/ha).

Last fall, low farm gate prices and large carry-in stocks prompted U.S. farmers to plant 32.7 million acres (13.2 million hectares) of winter wheat, down 9 percent from 2016/17. The winter wheat crop went into winter dormancy in good or above average condition. A mild winter and early spring was beneficial for both winter wheat and, unfortunately, the mites that carry wheat streak mosaic virus. The disease was widespread in Kansas, Oklahoma and parts of Nebraska, cutting yields and causing higher rates of abandonment in affected hard red winter (HRW) areas. A late spring blizzard in western Kansas cut yields and increased abandonment. Soft red winter (SRW) generally came out of dormancy in better than normal conditions, but growing conditions also varied widely across the Southeast. In some areas, excessive moisture helped boost yields, in others it delayed or prevented emergence.

As with winter wheat, low spring wheat and durum farm gate prices and large carry-in stocks reduced planted areas. After planting (which is generally early), drought conditions spread across Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota with devastating effects on yield. As a result, the rate of abandonment in South Dakota, which was particularly hard hit, is estimated at 37 percent — nearly triple the state’s 5-year average.

Here is a by-class breakdown of the Sept. 30 report.

Hard Red Winter (HRW). USDA estimates total 2017/18 HRW production fell to 20.4 MMT (750 million bushels), down 31 percent from 2016/17 and 15 percent below the 5-year average. USDA forecast 2017/18 HRW beginning stocks at 16.1 MMT (593 million bushels), up 33 percent year over year and 81 percent above the 5-year average. Even with large beginning stocks, total HRW supply will fall 12 percent year over year to 36.5 MMT (1.34 billion bushels). Total HRW planted area fell to 23.8 million acres (9.63 million hectares), down 10 percent from 2016/17. Yields also fell an average 13 percent from 2016/17 in the top HRW-producing states of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Hard Red Spring (HRS). USDA estimates total 2017/18 HRS production fell to 10.5 MMT (385 million bushels), down 22 percent from 2016/17 and 26 percent below the 5-year average. USDA forecast 2017/18 HRS beginning stocks at 6.40 MMT (235 million bushels), down 14 percent year over year but still 21 percent above the 5-year average. Total HRS supply will fall 12 percent year over year to 16.9 MMT (620 million bushels). USDA estimates farmers planted 10.3 million acres (4.17 million hectares) to HRS, 10 percent below 2016/17 levels. The drought cut yields an average of 11 bu/acre (0.74 MT/ha) in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. Abandonment in Montana and North Dakota was double the respective 5-year averages at 9 and 6 percent, and South Dakota farmers abandoned 37 percent of wheat fields due to the drought. The single bright spot for HRS production was Minnesota, with a record high average yield of 67.0 bu/acre (4.50 MT/ha) offsetting lower harvested area.

Soft Red Winter (SRW). USDA estimates total 2017/18 SRW production fell to 7.95 MMT (292 million bushels), down 15 percent from 2016/17 and 32 percent below the 5-year average. USDA reported 24 percent of SRW acres were abandoned compared to 17 percent last year. Record high yields in six SRW producing states partially offset the lower harvested area. USDA forecast 2017/18 SRW beginning stocks at 5.85 MMT (215 million bushels), up 37 percent year over year and 47 percent greater than the 5-year average. So, total SRW supply will rise slightly year over year to 13.8 MMT (507 million bushels). USDA estimates total 2017/18 SRW planted area at 5.61 million acres (2.27 million hectares), 15 percent lower than 2016/17 and 30 percent below the 5-year average.

Soft White (SW). USDA estimates total 2017/18 SW production declined to 6.14 MMT (226 million bushels), down 11 percent from 2016/17 due to small declines in harvested area and average yields in Washington and Idaho that were down 7 and 10 percent, respectively. USDA reports white wheat planted area decreased 3 percent year over year. White wheat planted area fell to 4.02 million acres (1.63 million hectares), 2 percent below the 5-year average. USDA projected white wheat beginning stocks will increase 42 percent year over year to 3.02 MMT (105 million bushels). If realized, that would be 65 percent above the 5-year average.

Durum. U.S. durum production fell 51 percent in 2017/18 to 1.49 MMT (54.9 million bushels) from lower planted area and yields in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. USDA estimates 1.91 million acres (773,000 hectares) were planted to durum, down 11 percent from 2016/17 but still 6 percent above the 5-year average of 1.80 million acres (729,000 hectares). Abandonment also increased this year from 2 percent in 2016/17 to 8 percent in 2017/18, due to the drought. USDA projected 2017/18 durum beginning stocks to climb to 980,000 metric tons (MT) (36 million bushels), nearly double the 5-year average and 29 percent above 2016/17 levels. USDA forecast total U.S. durum supply at 2.48 MMT (91 million bushels), down 31 percent year over year.

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By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst

Three months into the 2017/18 marketing year (June to May), total U.S. export sales-to-date of 12.1 million metric tons (MMT) are 2 percent ahead of last year’s pace and in line with the 5-year average pace. Though hard red winter (HRW) and hard red spring (HRS) sales are currently below last year’s levels, both are ahead of the respective 5-year averages. As of Aug. 24, total sales to eight of the top 10 2016/17 U.S. export markets are higher than last year. In addition, the other three U.S. wheat classes are all ahead of last year’s pace. USDA projects 2017/18 exports will fall to 26.5 MMT, which, if realized, would be 8 percent below 2016/17, but 1 percent above the 5-year average pace.

USDA reported HRW year-to-date exports at 4.49 MMT, down 7 percent from the prior year but 10 percent ahead of the 5-year average due to competitive prices and good quality. Mexico is currently the number one HRW purchaser. As of Aug. 24, before Hurricane Harvey’s catastrophic flooding closed Texas Gulf ports, HRW sales to Mexico totaled 973,000 metric tons (MT), up 72 percent from last year’s pace. Sales to Nigeria are also up 19 percent year over year at 488,000 MT. HRW purchases by Indonesia total 335,000 MT, three times greater than last year’s sales on this date. To date, HRW sales to Algeria totaling 273,000 MT are five times greater than the 2016/17 pace. It is too early to tell if Texas Gulf closures will affect total exports for 2017/18, but current reports suggest that rail and port facilities are making good progress toward resuming operations (Read more in Rail and Port Operation Recovery in Texas Gulf is Encouraging, below).

Sales of soft red winter (SRW) for 2017/18 are up 8 percent year over year at 1.19 MMT due to the excellent quality of this year’s crop. As of Aug. 24, total sales to four of the top 10 U.S. SRW export markets from 2016/17 are higher than last year. Sales to Mexico are 12 percent ahead of 2016/17 at 472,000 MT. Colombian SRW purchases total 121,000 MT, up 50 percent from last year. Sales to other Central and South American countries, including Ecuador, Peru, Panama, Brazil, Guatemala and El Salvador, are also ahead of the 2016/17 pace.

HRS sales of 3.26 MMT are down 13 percent year over year, but remain 4 percent above the 5-year average. Higher prices due to smaller 2017/18 production have slowed HRS exports thus far in 2017/18, but global demand for HRS is strong. As of Aug. 24, buyers in the Philippines held the top purchaser post with 746,000 MT, up 27 percent from 2016/17. Sales to seven of the top ten HRS customers are also ahead of last year’s pace. Sales to Japan of 475,000 MT are up 25 percent from last year’s sales on the same date, while year-to-date sales to Taiwan of 321,000 MT are up 93 percent from 2016/17.

As of Aug. 24, exports of soft white (SW) wheat are up 47 percent year over year at 2.93 MMT. That is 56 percent greater than the 5-year average. Sales to nine of the top 10 SW customers are ahead of last year’s pace. Philippine millers purchased 578,000 MT, up 19 percent compared to last year’s sales on the same date. South Korean sales are up 65 percent at 477,000 MT. Sales to Japan are up 24 percent year over year at 301,000 MT. U.S. SW sales to China, Thailand and Indonesia are also up. Year-to-date, Indonesia has purchased 266,000 MT, compared to total 2016/17 purchases of 193,000 MT. Thailand sales are up 72 percent year over year at 147,000 MT. Chinese purchases of 271,000 MT are already greater than 2016/17 total SW sales.

On average, 24 percent of U.S. total durum sales occur in first quarter of the marketing year, compared to 29 percent from September through November. Year to date durum exports total 211,000 MT, up 20 percent from the same time last year, still 14 percent below the 5-year average. Many durum buyers may be waiting for final quality reports for the Canadian crop before making purchasing decisions. To date, Nigeria, the European Union (EU), Algeria and Nigeria are the top durum buyers. A significant portion of the first quarter 2017/18 sales is designated as “sales to unknown designations.”