Wheat Market: USDA Confirms Ample Supply, Reassures Customers About Availability

On Sept. 28, USDA released its Small Grains Summary noting that 2018/19 U.S. wheat production increased to 51.3 MMT, up 8 percent from last year due to improvements in both average yield and harvested area. While this is still 8 percent below the 5-year average of 55.8 MMT, the 2018/19 production coupled with significant carry-in stocks ensure that the U.S. wheat store will remain open and well-stocked throughout 2018/19. Here is a look at 2018/19 U.S. wheat production by class.

Hard red winter (HRW)

Last fall, U.S. farmers increased HRW planting in the U.S. Southern Plains due to favorable moisture conditions. That slight increase was not enough to offset decreased planted area in the U.S. Northern Plains where a long-term drought delayed, and in some cases, prevented winter wheat planting. Planted area in Montana fell 6 percent year over year. USDA reported HRW planted area at 23.2 million acres (9.39 million hectares), down 2 percent from 2017.

Unfortunately, most of the Southern Plains received little to no moisture until spring, with some areas going from October to April without measurable precipitation. The poor weather caused Oklahoma wheat farmers to abandon 43 percent of their winter wheat area, up from both the 5-year average and the 2017/18 abandonment rate of 36 percent.

The average HRW yield in Kansas and Oklahoma, the top two HRW-producing states, decreased 21 percent and 18 percent from 2017/18, respectively. With the drought causing both harvested area and average yields to fall, USDA estimates total 2018/19 HRW production dropped 12 percent to 662 million bushels (18.0 MMT). Though smaller in volume, 2018 HRW quality i is excellent. Read more here.

Hard red spring (HRS)

Wet conditions slowed HRS planting but replenished depleted soil moisture across the drought stressed Northern Plains. USDA says U.S. farmers planted 12.1 million acres (4.90 million hectares) to HRS, up 17 percent from the year prior. The beneficial moisture boosting average HRS yields and harvested area.

In North Dakota, the top HRS producing state, the average yield climbed 20 percent year over year to a record high 49.0 bu/acre (3.29 MT per hectare), up 41 percent from 2017/18. Idaho farmers also produced record high HRS yields. USDA now reports HRS production at 587 million bushels (16.0 MMT), up 53 percent from 2017/18.

Soft red winter (SRW)

Last fall, U.S. farmers planted 5.85 million acres (2.37 million hectares) of SRW, up 4 percent from the year prior, but still 23 percent below the 5-year average. While planting conditions were generally favorable, depressed prices kept planted area low. In early 2018, several U.S. SRW growing areas received excessive moisture that decreased yield potential and the wet weather continued through harvest.

USDA reported SRW production totaled 286 million bushels (7.78 MMT), down 2 percent from 2017/18 and 33 percent below the 5-year average of 429 million bushels (11.7 MMT). Read more here.

White wheat (including soft white, club and hard white)

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U.S. white wheat planted acres stayed close to the 5-year average at 4.15 million acres (1.68 million hectares) in 2018/19. A wet winter boosted yield potential for both the winter and spring crops. The average spring white wheat yield in Washington increased 20 percent to 54.0 bu/acre (3.63 MT per hectare).

The slight increase in harvested area and significant improvement in average yields pushed 2018/19 total white wheat production to 272 million bushels (7.41 MMT), a 5 percent increase year over year, and 8 percent above the 5-year average of 252 million bushels (6.86 MMT).

Durum

Farmers planted less durum area this year in response to lower prices and large carry-out stocks during spring planting. USDA estimates 2.00 million acres (810,000 hectares) were planted to durum, down 13 percent from 2017/18 but still 9 percent above the 5-year average of 1.84 million acres (745,000 hectares). USDA estimated total 2018/19 U.S. durum production at 77.3 million bushels (2.10 MMT), up 41 percent from last year.

Generally favorable weather boosted yields in the U.S. Northern Plains, with average durum yields increasing to 39.3 bu/acre (2.64 MT per hectare), up 13.3 bu/acre from last year when drought severely impacted the crop. Desert Durum production fell 8 percent year over year to 10.5 million bushels (385,000 MT) due to sharply lower planted area in both Arizona and California.

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