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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

USDA’s latest forecast of total world wheat production stands at 745 million metric tons (MMT), down 1 percent from 2016/17. Though USDA expects global wheat production to decrease by 8.46 MMT, it expects global wheat consumption to remain high at 737 MMT, down 1.13 MMT from the 2016/17 record. With lower production and stable consumption, staying abreast of the location and quality of the 2017/18 wheat crop is key. The following is a look at production and quality expectations for major exporting regions and countries outside the United States.

Black Sea. On Sept. 15, Russia’s Ministry of Agriculture reported wheat harvest was 84 percent complete. To date, the reported average yield is 3.51 metric tons per hectare (MT/ha) (52.2 bu/acre) compared to 2.95 MT/ha (43.9 bu/acre) on the same date in 2016. Russian consultancy SovEcon forecast 2017/18 Russian wheat production at 81.1 MMT, up 13 percent from 2016/17. Strategie Grains reported that Ukrainian farmers harvested 26.0 MMT of wheat this year, on par with 2016/17. Kazakhstan wheat harvest is underway, and Strategie Grains pegged 2017/18 Kazakh wheat production at 14.2 MMT, which would be down 5 percent from 2016/17. USDA expects Black Sea exports to total 56.5 MMT, up 7 percent from 2016/17, if realized.

SGS Russia, an independent crop inspection service, reported preliminary quality data for winter wheat in Russia’s South, Central and Volga-Urals regions, which showed lower protein levels due to favorable growing conditions and high yields. According to the SGS data, 52 percent of the samples graded as Russian 4th class wheat, up from 46 percent of samples in 2016/17. Russian 4th class wheat has between 8.8 and 10.5 percent protein on a 12 percent moisture basis. Though the percentage of samples that graded 3rd class wheat (10.5 to 11.9 percent protein on a 12 percent moisture basis) and 5th class (feed wheat) decreased in 2017/18, impacts on supplies of those two classes are expected to be minor due to record large production. SGS reports that some areas have Fusarium damage, high levels of sprout damage and very low falling numbers; but test weight values are generally higher across all regions. SGS reports the average protein of Ukraine’s 2017/18 wheat crop is 10.1 percent (12 percent mb) compared to 10.5 percent in 2016. The crop has higher average moisture and higher bug damage compared to 2016 per SGS.

Canada. In its Sept. 15 report, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) projected 2017/18 wheat production (excluding durum) to be 21.6 MMT, down 10 percent from 2016/17. A 1 percent increase in planted area was more than offset by sharply lower yields. AAFC expects total Canada Western (Hard) Red Spring (CWRS) to account for 74 percent of total Canadian wheat production at 16.1 MMT. Canadian durum production is estimated at 3.90 MMT, down 50 percent year over year due to a 16 percent decrease in planted area and lower than average yields.

According to Alberta crop reports, favorable conditions are allowing harvest to proceed rapidly. As of Sept. 12, 50 percent of the crop was harvested compared to 31 percent at this time last year. Hot, dry conditions are aiding Saskatchewan wheat harvest as well. As of Sept. 14, Saskatchewan spring wheat and durum harvests were 63 and 81 percent complete, respectively, compared to 38 and 62 percent complete the week prior and significantly better than last year when frequent rainfall delayed harvest. Preliminary durum grade data from the Saskatchewan weekly crop report shows 97 percent of the crop graded as #1 or #2 Canadian Western Amber Durum (CWAD). On average, Saskatchewan produces 85 percent of the Canadian durum crop.

European Union. Stratégie Grains (SG) forecast total European Union (EU) wheat production at 151 MMT, up 4 percent year over year due to a return to normal production levels in France. Durum production is expected to decrease to 8.9 MMT, down from 9.9 MMT in 2016/17, but common (non-durum) wheat production will climb 5 percent to 142 MMT. After a disastrous 2016/17 French harvest when late rain damaged yields and quality, 2017/18 French wheat production rebounded to 37.4 MMT, up 31 percent year over year. SG noted French wheat quality is very good, but rain at harvest hurt German and Polish wheat quality. SG estimated EU milling quality wheat output at 66 percent of total 2017/18 production, putting total EU common wheat milling quality production at 93.9 MMT. That is in line with the 5-year average and 12 percent greater than 2016/17. SG expects EU total wheat exports to fall to 23.1 MMT, down 4 percent year over year, if realized, due to quality issues in Germany and increased competition from the large Black Sea supply.

Argentina. Bolsa de Cereales Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires Grain Exchange) recently estimated farmers in Argentina planted 5.35 million hectares (13.2 million acres) of wheat in 2017/18, up 5 percent from 2016/17. As of Sept. 7, Bolsa rated 71 percent of Argentine wheat in very good to excellent condition compared to 63 percent the prior year. However, excessive moisture is preventing fieldwork in some areas and threatening emerging wheat plants. The International Grains Council (IGC) pegged Argentine wheat production at 16.5 MMT, down 6 percent from 2016/17 if realized. With carry-in stocks expected to remain stable year over year at 600,000 MT, Argentine supply will also decrease 6 percent from 2016/17 to 17.1 MMT. IGC expects Argentina to export 10.5 MMT, down from 11.5 MMT in 2016/17 due to the smaller supply.

Australia. The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) forecasts 2017/18 wheat production at 21.6 MMT, down 38 percent from 2016/17 due to a 3 percent reduction in planted area and sharply lower yields. Australian farmers decreased planted wheat area for 2017/18 to 12.4 million hectares. A drier than normal winter has depleted soil moisture reserves in the many wheat-producing areas, which need timely rains to maintain current yield potential. USDA expects Australian exports to increase to 18.5 MMT, down 20 percent from 2016/17 and 1 percent below the 5-year average.

Together with its partner organizations across the United States, USW is testing more than 2,000 samples of wheat this year for its annual Crop Quality survey. The preliminary results are reported every Friday in the USW Harvest Report, and the final results for all classes are published in by-class reports and in our annual Crop Quality Report near the end of October. Please contact your local USW representative for more information about the USW Crop Quality survey, report or seminars.

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By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst

USDA increased its estimates for world wheat production, consumption and trade in its August World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report released today. USDA forecast global wheat production at 743 million metric tons (MMT), 3 percent above the 5-year average but still 2 percent below last year’s record. The global wheat consumption estimate increased to 737 MMT in 2017/18, up 4 percent from the 5-year average but down slightly from the 2016/17 record. USDA projects 2017/18 world wheat trade at 180 MMT, down 1 percent from last year but still 10 percent above the 5-year average, which would be the second highest on record. USDA also lowered its U.S. and Canada spring wheat supply estimates.

USDA forecasted U.S. wheat production to fall 25 percent year over year to 47.3 MMT. The drop is due to lower yields for spring wheat and durum as a result of the drought across the U.S. Northern Plains, but does not reflect abandoned acre data. USDA pegged U.S. spring wheat production at 9.91 MMT, down 26 percent from 2016/17 and 30 percent below the 5-year average, if realized.

Total 2017/18 U.S. spring wheat supply, which USDA pegged at 16.3 MMT, is down 22 percent from 2016/17 and results in a U.S. spring wheat stocks-to-use ratio of 24 percent. The ratio was 44 percent in the August 2016 WASDE and 51 percent in the August 2015 report. The current low stocks-to-use ratio seems supportive for U.S. spring wheat prices. Many in the industry believe supply will decrease further when abandoned acres are determined.  The North Dakota Wheat Commission noted in Assessing the Wheat Quality Council Tour 2017 Yield Estimate (below), …abandoned acres will certainly have a significant impact on final production for both spring and durum, but may not be fully reconciled until USDA releases its final harvested acreage report for the 2017 crops.”

The drought that is impacting the United States is also decreasing yield potential in Canada. USDA now estimates 2017/18 Canadian wheat production will total 26.5 MMT, down 16 percent from the prior year. The United States and Canada normally account for 60 percent of global high protein wheat exports.

Favorable spring wheat growing conditions in Russia and Kazakhstan may partially offset lower North American spring wheat production. Time will tell what quality and quantity of spring wheat is available for export, and at what value. Customers should remain abreast of current crop conditions, harvest conditions and U.S. prices and contact their local USW representative for any questions concerning the 2017/18 U.S. wheat crop.

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USDA forecast U.S. 2017/18 wheat production at 47.9 million metric tons (MMT), down 24 percent year over year and 18 percent below the 5-year average. The reason: an anticipated 12 percent decline in average yield and the lowest planted acres since USDA records began in 1919. However, USDA expects 2017/18 U.S. beginning stocks to total 32.2 MMT, up 21 percent year over year and the most since 1988/89. As a result, total 2017/18 U.S. wheat supply is forecast at 80.1 MMT, down 10 percent from 2016/17 but still 1 percent above the 5-year average of 79.3 MMT. USDA expects average yield to be 46.2 bu/acre (3.10 MT/ha), which is close to the 5-year average of 46.6 bu/acre (3.13 MT/ha).

On June 30, USDA estimated total planted wheat area would fall 9 percent year over year to 45.7 million acres (18.5 million hectares). If realized, that would be 17 percent lower than the 5-year average. USDA expects 2017/18 harvested area to drop 13 percent from last year and 18 percent below the 5-year average to 38.1 million acres (15.4 million hectares).

USDA forecast 2017/18 hard red winter (HRW) production to total 20.6 MMT, down 30 percent from 2016/17 and 14 percent below the 5-year average. A smaller planted area and sharply lower harvested area led to the decline. U.S. farmers planted 23.8 million acres (9.63 million hectares) of HRW for 2017/18, down 10 percent from 2016. Due to weather and wheat streak mosaic virus, harvested area in top HRW-producers Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas is projected to fall 16 percent year over year. USDA forecast 2017/18 HRW beginning stocks at 16.1 MMT, up 33 percent year over year and 81 percent above the 5-year average. Total 2017/18 HRW supply is expected to total 36.8 MMT, down 12 percent from 2016/17.

Soft red winter (SRW) production is also expected to decline 11 percent to 8.33 MMT in 2017/18 due to fewer planted acres. USDA estimated total 2017/18 SRW area at 5.61 million acres (2.27 million hectares), 15 percent lower than 2016/17 and 30 percent below the 5-year average. In contrast to recent years, SRW harvest in the U.S. Southern Plains is progressing rapidly with good harvest conditions. On July 7, the USW Weekly Harvest report showed the average grade on 199 samples was U.S. #2 in a generally sound crop with DON levels that are significantly below the 5-year average. USDA estimates that SRW 2017/18 beginning stocks totaled 5.85 MMT, up 37 percent from 2016/17 and 47 percent above the 5-year average. The larger beginning stocks will offset reduced production, and total 2017/18 SRW supply is expected to increase by 500,000 MT year over year to 14.2 MMT.

USDA reported white wheat production will decrease 11 percent from 2016/17 to 6.91 MMT, but still 1 percent above the 5-year average, if realized. The decline is due to 3 percent fewer planted acres and slightly lower forecast yields. Idaho, Oregon and Washington have received ample moisture and winter wheat conditions there average 78 percent good to excellent. USDA estimates soft white (SW) beginning stocks increased 42 percent year over year to 2.86 MMT. The larger beginning stocks are expected to offset the lower production, leaving the 2017/18 SW supply unchanged year over year at 9.77 MMT.

Hard red spring (HRS) production is expected to plummet in 2017/18 to 10.5 MMT, down 22 percent from the prior year and the lowest since 2002/03, if realized. The average spring wheat yield is forecast at 40.3 bu/acre (2.73 MT/ha), down 15 percent from 2016/17. USDA also estimates farmers planted 10.3 million acres (4.17 million hectares) to HRS, 10 percent below 2016/17 levels. As of July 11, 55 percent of North Dakota is in a severe or extreme drought and the remainder of the state is abnormally dry or in a moderate drought. Similarly, 72 percent of South Dakota and 45 percent of Montana are in a moderate to extreme drought. As of July 10, just 35 percent of the spring crop was rated good or excellent and 39 percent was poor or very poor. In North Dakota, the largest HRS producing state, 36 percent of the crop is in good or excellent condition. USDA anticipates 2017/18 HRS beginning stocks of 6.39 MMT are 14 percent less than last year. Estimated 2017/18 HRS supply will total 16.9 MMT, down 19 percent year over year. USDA expects the HRS stocks-to-use ratio to fall to 22 percent in 2017/18, compared to 41 percent one year prior.

Smaller planted area and 30 percent lower yields are expected to reduce durum production to 1.55 MMT in 2017/18, down an estimated 45 percent from 2016/17 and 26 percent below the 5-year average. USDA expects average durum yields to sink to 30.9 bu/acre (2.08 MT/ha), compared to 44.0 bu/acre (2.96 bu/acre) in 2016/17. Durum planted area decreased this year as farmers responded to lower prices and large carry-out stocks. Spring-planted northern durum is grown primarily in North Dakota and Montana, and the Desert Durum® harvest in Arizona and California is nearly complete. USDA estimates 2017/18 durum beginning stocks at 980,000 MT, up 29 percent from the prior year and 45 percent greater than the 5-year average. Increased beginning stocks will not offset the drastically reduced 2017/18 production so USDA expects the U.S. durum supply will fall to 2.53 MMT, 29 percent below 2016/17 levels and 9 percent below the 5-year average. The U.S. durum stocks-to-use ratio will fall to 24 percent, on par with the 5-year average.

Even with reduced production for 2017/18, U.S. farmers stored significant amounts of grain last year, ensuring that customers can continue purchasing reliable, high-quality wheat. Customers are encouraged to contact their local USW representative to discuss purchasing strategies in this volatile global wheat market.

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By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst

While markets focused on USDA’s latest global supply and demand values, a deeper look provides perspective for wheat buyers. Breaking the supply values down into three categories — importer, exporter and China — shows some interesting trends. USDA expects world wheat supply in 2017/18 to fall 2 million metric tons (MMT) year over year to 993 MMT due to a 2 percent decline in its estimated production of 738 MMT. If realized, it would be the first production decline since 2012/13. The anticipated decrease in exporter and importer supplies will be larger, but that decrease is masked by estimated increases for China. Removing China’s 2017/18 projected beginning stocks and production from global wheat supply reveals an 18.2 MMT or approximately 2 percent decline in global supplies.

Importing countries. Ending stocks in major wheat importing countries for 2016/17 — soon to be 2017/18 beginning stocks — are expected to fall to a 6-year low of 68.0 MMT. Production in the importing countries is expected to increase 5 percent year over year, lifted by a 10 MMT increase in India after two poor crops there. Total importing country supplies are expected to remain stable at 300 MMT, with beginning stocks falling and production increasing only marginally in importing countries. However, it should be noted that 107 MMT, roughly 35 percent, of that supply will remain in India.

Exporting countries. USDA forecasts supplies in the top wheat exporting countries of Argentina, Australia, Canada, the European Union (EU), Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and the United States to decrease by 4 percent or roughly 19 MMT year over year to 451 MMT. A 10.5 MMT year over year increase in exporter beginning stocks partially offsets the anticipated 7 percent decrease in production. Of the major eight exporters, only the EU and Argentina expect to see increases compared to last year.

China. USDA expects Chinese beginning stocks to climb to 111 MMT, up 14 percent over 2016/17. If realized, China will hold 43 percent of 2017/18 total global wheat beginning stocks. Chinese wheat production is also expected to rise in 2017/18 to 131 MMT, up 2.15 MMT from 2016/17, yet Chinese wheat consumption is expected to decline 2 percent to 116 MMT due to an anticipated decrease in wheat feeding. With supply up and consumption down, 2017/18 Chinese ending stocks are expected to grow to 128 MMT, up 15 percent from last year and a new record. If realized, Chinese ending stocks would account for 49 percent of all global wheat ending stocks for 2017/18.

Global supply and demand estimates give broad perspective for purchasing decisions, but customers should take care to remove Chinese stocks from the equations because the entire volume will stay in China. Thus, China’s ending stocks skew the total global stocks-to-use ratio higher to 35 percent. Without China, the global ratio would be 21 percent.

Buyers should also note that USDA’s first estimates for 2017/18 wheat production use trendline yields and average harvested area. As last year demonstrated, weather can significantly affect yield potential, abandoned acres, quality and total production. For example, the actual effect of the late April freeze and snow, as well as increasing plant disease pressure, on hard red winter (HRW) production and quality will not be revealed until harvest. Buyers should continue to monitor conditions around the world, and recognize that global wheat supplies are much tighter than traditional global supply and demand estimates show.

To keep up to date on the 2017/18 U.S. wheat harvest and initial quality analysis, it is easy to subscribe to USW Weekly Harvest Reports. To read the first report, click here.

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By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst

On April 11, USDA released its latest World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report. With six weeks left in marketing year 2016/17, USDA expects wheat world ending stocks to reach a record high 252 million metric tons (MMT), up 4 percent year over year and 22 percent ahead of the 5-year average, if realized. The current marketing year factors in this report are well defined and the record large ending stocks are neither surprising nor new to those who follow the wheat industry. However, the position of those stocks has been quietly changing.

Historically, global wheat exporters — Argentina, Australia, Canada, the European Union (EU), Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and the United States — have held roughly 30 percent of global ending stocks. China has historically held one third of global endings stocks and the mostly net importers that remain have held about 37 percent. The 5-year average breaks out with exporter stocks at 61 MMT, China holding roughly 70 MMT and the world’s importers carrying out about 75 MMT

However, USDA expects that ratio to shift at the end of 2016/17. Chinese ending stocks are expected to reach a record high 111 MMT, or 44 percent of global ending stocks. In global wheat exporting countries, ending stocks are also expected to grow slightly to 74.0 MMT, but the ratio will fall to about 29 percent of global ending stocks. Carryout stocks in the world’s wheat importing countries are expected to fall 16 percent year over year to 67.1 MMT. If realized, that would be 11 percent below the 5-year average and 27 percent of global ending stocks, down 10 percentage points from the 5-year average.

This decrease is due in large part to a shift in purchasing behavior. Four consecutive record production years have enticed many buyers to adopt a “just-in-time” approach to take advantage of the lower prices and reduce storage costs where possible. That is why ending stocks in the top 20 markets for U.S. wheat (excluding China) are expected to cover just over two months of consumption, 6 percent below the 5-year average.

Additionally, 28 countries (including the EU, the world’s largest wheat consumer and normally a top wheat exporter) expect to have one month or less of domestic consumption in carryout stocks at the end of 2016/17, compared to the 5-year average of 20 countries with one month or less of domestic consumption. There are also 23 countries for which USDA does not show ending stocks data. These countries import 6.09 MMT of wheat annually and, with limited storage capacity, tend to buy “just-in-time.”

With lower planted area and an expected return to trendline yields, world wheat production is poised to decrease in 2017/18. With importing country stocks drawn down to the lowest level since 2010/11, any supply shocks would increase price volatility in wheat futures markets. On paper, the world has ample wheat, but 44 percent of that supply resides in China, which rarely offers wheat or flour for export.

After four consecutive years of larger global production and lower global wheat prices, many customers have minimal stocks on hand to weather supply shocks, and as one wheat buyer noted, “wheat (export) prices take the stairs down and the elevator up.” Fortunately for our customers, the United States holds 12 percent of world wheat ending stocks, ensuring the U.S. wheat store is always open. What is still uncertain is whether the price of U.S. high-quality wheat will remain at the current low levels. As always, weather is the wildcard, both in its direct effects on world wheat production and the wheat price impacts of any production problems with other major grains, especially corn and soybeans.

Customers should be aware of changing conditions around the world, and can track USDA weekly wheat crop condition and planting progress reports, as well as the latest U.S. weather forecast on the weekly USW Price Report.

USW will begin weekly Harvest Reports in May. To subscribe to any of USW’s reports, click here.

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By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst

Over the past decade, U.S. wheat planted area peaked in 2008/09 at 63.2 million acres (25.6 million hectares). Since then, U.S. wheat planted area has fallen 27 percent to a projected 46.1 million acres (18.7 million hectares) in 2017/18 according to the March 31 USDA Prospective Plantings report. If realized, it will be 16 percent below the 5-year average of 55.0 million acres (22.3 million hectares) — making it the lowest planted wheat area since 1919 when USDA records began.

This report actually increased winter wheat planted area by 360,000 acres (146,000 hectares) from USDA’s January 2017 estimate to 32.7 million acres (13.23 million hectares). However, the new estimate is still 9 percent down from 2016/17 planted area. The increase came from hard red winter (HRW) area, estimated at 23.8 million acres (9.63 million hectares), up 2 percent from the previous projection. Still, HRW planted area will be down 10 percent from 26.5 million acres (10.7 million hectares) planted for 2016/17.

Soft red winter (SRW) planted area decreased from the previous estimate to 5.53 million acres (2.24 million hectares). The biggest declines occurred in Midwest states where SRW faces strong competition for acres from corn and, particularly this year, from soybeans.

USDA expects white wheat acres — planted in both winter and spring — to reach 4.12 million acres (1.67 million hectares) for 2017/18, down slightly from 2016/17, but in line with the 5-year average. For the first time in three years, the Drought Monitor shows adequate soil moisture in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) following a rather wet winter.

Given the drop in planted area, crop conditions become crucial to any look out at potential production for 2017/18. For HRW, the April 6 Drought Monitor also shows that 45 percent of Kansas and 66 percent of Oklahoma were abnormally dry or experiencing moderate drought, even though the region received 1 to 4 inches (2.5 to 10 cm) of rain last week. Fifteen percent of Oklahoma remains in severe or extreme drought. In 2016, these states grew nearly half of the total U.S. HRW crop.

Last week’s beneficial moisture improved U.S. winter wheat condition in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, but the crop is still in worse condition than last year at this time. As of April 3, USDA rated the winter wheat crop at 51 percent good to excellent, compared to 59 percent on the same date in 2016. USDA rated 14 percent of the crop as poor or very poor, up from 7 percent last year.

The U.S. Northern Plains received abundant precipitation this winter, providing good soil moisture for HRS and durum planting. The past two years, farmers in North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota began HRS planting 7 to 14 days ahead of normal due to early springs. This year, planting dates will be closer to normal as farmers are now waiting for fields to dry out.

According to USDA, U.S. total spring-planted area will decline to an estimated 11.3 million acres (4.57 million hectares), 3 percent less than in 2016/17. The estimate includes 10.6 million acres (4.3 million hectares) of hard red spring (HRS), down 7 percent from 2016, if realized.

USDA expects U.S. durum planted area to total 2.00 million acres (809,000 hectares), down 17 percent from 2016/17. If realized, this would further constrict the global durum supply discussed in the March 23 Wheat Letter.

Continuing to drive the decline in U.S. wheat planted area is a net farmer return on wheat that dropped 18 percent between 2015/16 and 2016/17, while input costs declined only one percent in the same time period. USDA expects this trend to continue in 2017/18, with returns falling another 6 percent from already unprofitable 2016/17 levels.

There is a long way to go before the final count is in. However, with less planted area and an expected return to trend line yields, the International Grains Council (IGC) pegged 2017/18 U.S. wheat production at 50.2 MMT, down 20 percent from 2016/17.

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By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst

Global durum prices remain under pressure from a large 2016/17 crop. Per International Grains Council (IGC) data, global durum production increased 3 percent year over year to 40.2 million metric tons (MMT), 9 percent above the 5-year average and the largest since 2009/10.

As reported in the USW Price Report, U.S. free-on-board (FOB) Great Lakes durum prices have slipped 4 percent since the beginning of marketing year 2016/17 to a range from $303 to $309 per metric ton (MT) on March 17. Over the same time, Canadian FOB St. Lawrence durum prices declined 10 percent year over year based on Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) data.

Despite lower prices, global durum trade is expected to decline 7 percent to 8.0 MMT in 2016/17. But while trade volumes are expected to decrease, consumption of durum is expected to increase 5 percent year over year to 38.7 MMT. Global human durum consumption remains steady at roughly 30 MMT. Seed and residual usage is projected to increase 10 percent in 2016/17 to 5.4 MMT, but the largest change is expected in global durum feeding. IGC anticipates durum feed usage to reach 3.2 MMT in 2016/17, up 68 percent year over year, if realized. Canadian animal feed usage is expected to double to 1.4 MMT in 2016/17 due to lower prices and lower quality supplies. Animal feed usage in the European Union (EU) is also expected to more than double in 2016/17 to 700,000 MT.

International Grains Council Feb. 23 2017 Grain Market Report

While there are eight major exporters of common wheat, there are just four major exporters of durum — Canada, the European Union (EU), Mexico and the United States — all of which are in the Northern Hemisphere and benefited from the wet spring and mild summer that boosted 2016/17 yields and supplies. These four exporters account for an average 95 percent of total global durum exports each year. Year over year, durum supply in the major exporting countries increased 19 percent to 49.3 MMT. IGC expects global durum ending stocks to total 10.7 MMT, 41 percent above the 5-year average.

Against this backdrop, farmers are making plans and, in some places, are beginning to sow durum in the Northern Hemisphere. Spring weather affects planting decisions, but early projections expect significantly lower durum planted area in 2017/18. Stratégie Grains expects reduced planted area and more normal yields will cut 2017/18 EU durum production by 9 percent year over year to 8.9 MMT. AAFC pegged Canadian durum production at 5.5 MMT, which would be down 29 percent year over year if realized. The reduction is based on an expected 20 percent decline in planted durum area and a projected 15 percent decrease in yield. Stratégie Grains forecasts 2017/18 Mexican durum production at 2.0 MMT, down an estimated 20 percent from 2016/17, if realized.

As discussed in the March 9 Wheat Letter, USDA pegged U.S. spring and durum planted area at 13.6 million acres (5.51 million hectares) at its annual Agricultural Outlook Forum and forecasted total U.S. wheat production to fall 20 percent year over year. USDA will release detailed acreage projections in the Prospective Plantings Report on March 31.

In the United States, durum farmers have a saying, “plant durum every year and sell every third year.” The soaring yields seen in marketing year 2016/17 put plenty of durum in storage, but provided little incentive to farmers to sell it. U.S. farmers see this as a time to wait for prices to rise, ensuring that regardless of final 2017/18 production volume, the U.S. store will remain open and able to supply the world market with high quality durum.

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By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst

The USDA held its annual Agricultural Outlook Forum Feb. 23 to 24 where the 2017 Grain and Oilseeds outlook was presented. USDA currently estimates 2016/17 (June to May) wheat acreage at 46.0 million acres (18.6 million hectares), a nine percent decrease from last year.

USDA reported that winter wheat plantings are down 10 percent with the HRW crop having the largest decrease. HRW plantings fell by 12 percent to 23.3 million acres (9.43 million hectares). Soft red winter (SRW) plantings decreased by 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) to 5.7 million acres (2.3 million hectares). USDA anticipates a 3 percent reduction in spring wheat plantings due to more favorable returns for other commodities. Currently, USDA’s spring wheat and durum acreage projection stands at 13.6 million acres (5.51 million hectares).

Due to the expected reductions in planted area and a return to trend line yields, production will decrease to a projected 50.0 MMT. If realized, that would be down 20 percent year-over-year. Based on trend yields, USDA expects the national average yield to fall to 47.1 bushels per acre (31.6 MT per hectare). USDA projects the wheat harvested-to-planted ratio will be 0.85, on par with 2016/17 and the 5-year average.

Though winter wheat planted area is at its lowest level in 108 years, growing conditions can greatly impact production levels as demonstrated in 2016/17. In February, winter wheat ratings declined in Illinois, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, according to the monthly USDA Crop Progress report. The biggest change was noted in Montana, where USDA rated 5 percent of winter wheat in good to excellent condition compared to 70 percent in January. The percentage of Oklahoma wheat rated good to excellent increased to 43 percent, up from 33 percent in January. USDA reported 15 percent of Oklahoma wheat in poor or very poor condition, down from 17 percent in January, but significantly higher than the 1 percent poor or very poor on the same date last year. USDA resumes weekly crop progress reporting on April 3.

Large carryover stocks will partially offset the projected lower production, yet the forecast expects total U.S. supplies to decrease in 2017/18. USDA forecasts 2017/18 U.S. supplies at 84.3 MMT, down 9 percent from 2016/17, still 1 percent more than the 5-year average, if realized. Demand in the United States will decline in 2017/18, due to decreased feed usage. USDA anticipates a 2 percent decrease in domestic use, from 33.9 MMT to 33.1 MMT.

Smaller U.S. supplies and competition from other origins are expected to constrain U.S. wheat exports. USDA expects U.S. exports to decline slightly to 26.5 MMT, down 5 percent from the forecasted 2016/17 U.S. wheat export level of 27.9 MMT. U.S. ending stocks are forecast to decrease to 24.6 MMT, down 21 percent year-over-year but still 8 percent above the 5-year average.

To read more from the USDA Outlook Forum or to download presentations, please visit https://www.usda.gov/oce/forum/.

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By Stephanie Bryant-Erdmann, USW Market Analyst

Since Jan. 1, the nearby wheat futures contract for hard red winter (HRW) on the Kansas City Board of Trade (KCBT) rallied 13 percent or 54 cents per bushel ($20 per metric ton) returning to price levels like those seen in June 2016. The rally is drawing support from both demand and supply factors. On the demand side, year to date U.S. 2016/17 HRW export sales total 10.1 million metric tons (MMT), up 95 percent from 2015/16 and 30 percent ahead of the 5-year average. Savvy buyers are also securing supplies for the next marketing season. To date, HRW export sales for marketing year 2017/18 total 182,000 metric tons (MT), up 8 percent from last year.

Robust demand for HRW is supported in part by low prices, but also by a change in the dynamic of the U.S. dollar. A strong U.S. dollar generally makes U.S. exports more expensive relative to other origins. However, while the U.S. dollar continues to strengthen against most currencies, it weakened against key competitor currencies. Year-over-year, the U.S. dollar weakened 3 percent against the Australian dollar, 11 percent against the Kazakhstani tenge and 20 percent against the Russian ruble. This shift is driving demand back to U.S. wheat in areas where the United States has a logistical advantage because it decreases the ability of buyers to offset increased shipping costs with lower priced wheat from competing origins.

The same low prices supporting HRW demand caused U.S. farmers to decrease HRW planted area by 12 percent last fall to 23.3 million acres (9.43 million hectares), which will likely result in smaller 2017/18 HRW production. Last year, record high yields offset lower planted area, but U.S. HRW planted area for 2017/18 is 20 percent less than five years ago. As discussed in the Feb. 23 Wheat Letter, farmers across the U.S. plains expect yields to return to the trend line this year given the current soil moisture and crop conditions.

Reduced HRW supplies are expected to be part of a smaller total world wheat crop in 2017/18 following last year’s record-large production. Production is expected to return to more normal trend lines around the world resulting in smaller crops for most of the world’s wheat exporting countries. The notable exception is the European Union (EU), where wheat production is expected to rebound after excessive rain cut yields last year. The European Commission forecast 2017/18 EU common wheat production at 143 MMT, up 7 percent from 2016/17 with better yields offsetting a slight reduction in planted area. EU 2017/18 durum production is expected to fall 2 percent from last year to 8.8 MMT, due to a reduction in planted area.

On Mar. 6, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Research and Sciences (ABARES) projected Australian wheat planted area will decrease 1 percent to 31.6 million acres (12.8 million hectares) citing increased competition for area from canola, pulses and sheep. With the assumption of average growing season conditions and a return to trend line yields, ABARES forecast Australian 2017/18 wheat production at 24.0 MMT, down 11 MMT from 2016/17 and 5 percent below the 5-year average, if realized.

In February, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) estimated 2017/18 Canadian wheat planted area will fall by 3 percent to 22.6 million acres (9.15 million hectares). A projected 29 percent decrease in durum acres and 12 percent decrease in winter wheat acres more than offset the expected 5 percent increase in spring wheat acres. Excessive rains last fall hurt quality and delayed harvest and subsequent fall planting across Canada. With decreased planted area and an expected return to trend line yields, AAFC expects Canadian wheat production to decrease in 2017/18 to 28.6 MMT. If realized, that would be a 10 percent decline from the prior year and 3 percent below the 5-year average.

Last fall, Russian farmers planted winter wheat on 36.5 million acres (14.8 million hectares), up 4 percent from the prior year. The Russian Ministry of Agriculture expects spring wheat planted area will decline slightly to 33.6 million acres (13.6 million hectares) due to increased competition for area from corn. Strategie Grains (SG) expects Russian 2017/18 wheat production to total 67.2 MMT, down 14 percent from last year’s record production due to a return to trend line yields that more than offset the increase in planted area.

SG expects Kazakhstan 2017/18 wheat production to fall 18 percent year-over-year to 13.8 MMT due to reductions in planted area and yield. Ukrainian farmers are also expected to produce less wheat in 2017/18. SG projects Ukraine wheat production will total 23.9 MMT. If realized that would be down 8 percent from 2016/17, but 7 percent above the 5-year average of 22.5 MMT.

The world is poised to produce a smaller wheat crop for the first time in four years, and the recent wheat futures rally indicate farmers, traders and customers alike are all taking notice, especially in light of record consumption. Before spring fully arrives with its typically volatile weather, customers should consider joining those who are securing supplies of high-quality U.S. wheat at what remain very attractive prices.