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.
Freeze, Snow Effects Likely Cut into World’s High Quality Wheat Supply
It is still too early to project specific effects on wheat yields for marketing year 2017/18 from the late-season cold and snow event in Kansas and parts of Colorado, Texas and Nebraska. However, those close to the situation suggest the freeze and snow only add fuel to an already established trend.
“The big story with hard red winter wheat in general before the blizzard headlines was about the reduction in planted area,” said Kansas Wheat CEO Justin Gilpin. “Lower planted area, now combined with higher abandonment in this crop, encouraged USDA to project a drop in hard red winter wheat production by 344 million bushels (9.36 MMT).”
Gilpin said he expects the situation in HRW will help reduce the total U.S. wheat stocks-to-use ratio by perhaps 10 percent — but carryover stocks still support a relatively high ratio of 40 percent.
“However, it needs to be pointed out that this does not reflect the balance sheet for the high quality milling wheat that buyers here in the United States and around the world should watch closely,” said Gilpin. “The available stocks-to-use number for quality supplies is projected to be to be much tighter on a global basis.”