Can wheat producers keep pace with growing global demand?


ARLINGTON, Va. — U.S. wheat export demand is steady for the second straight month in a growing world market, according to USDA’s March World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report.

Farmers around the world have responded to growing demand by producing record crops recently. As a result, USDA forecasts that global ending stocks for 2009/10 (June-May) will be 196.8 million metric tons, up 60 percent from a recent low of 123.3 million metric tons in 2007/08.

Demand strong

Significantly, though, the March report calls for world wheat demand to grow again this year.

Falling wheat prices since the supply-induced shock of 2007/08 are partly responsible, but global demand is growing with population and income in developing countries.

Since 1980, in fact, wheat imports by developing countries have grown from 50 million metric tons to 125 million metric tons.

Good ol’ supply/demand

U.S. Wheat Associates Vice President of Overseas Operations Vince Peterson recently told reporters that at some point only a few years away, demand is likely to exceed production again.

“We know U.S. producers are planting less wheat on average every year,” Peterson said, “mainly because crops like corn, soybeans, and other oilseeds offer more income.”

Melvin Brees, economist at the University of Missouri Food and Agriculture Policy Research Institute, said projected break-even prices for this year at $5.17 per bushel for winter wheat, $3.02 for corn, and $6.42 for soybeans.

“The trend down exists everywhere wheat is grown, not just in the United States,” Peterson said.

Unless technology can drive wheat yields up, he added, supply will fall and prices will rise again.

Export forecast

For 2009/10, USDA held its U.S. wheat export forecast steady at 825 million bushels (22.5 MMT), which included a 10 million bushel (272,800 MT) increase in hard red winter exports offset by the same decrease for white wheat.

Commercial U.S. hard red winter sales for 2009/10 are up 19 percent over 2008/09 to North Asia, up 14 percent to Sub-Saharan Africa, and significantly up in North Africa following recent sales to Morocco.

U.S. durum and soft white wheat sales this marketing year are also outpacing 2008/09.

USDA forecasts total U.S. wheat exports to end 2009/10 18.5 percent lower than in 2008/09, reflecting greater exportable world supplies.


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