Global wheat production waning according to latest data

Estimates for world wheat continue to contract

Cropping
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Global wheat production on the decline for 2020-21, according to new data from the USDA.

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Wheat production and planted area is likely to be down in many key regions of the globe during 2020-21, according to data coming in from peak world commodity bodies.

Wheat production and planted area is likely to be down in many key regions of the globe during 2020-21, according to data coming in from peak world commodity bodies.

While still a record, it appears global wheat production for the 2020-21 season may have peaked - as the crop comes under yield pressure in several of the major producers.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its latest World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report last Friday, in which it forecast total wheat production would fall by a tad over 4 million tonnes to 769.3 million tonnes.

The USDA reduced its domestic production estimates by 1.5 million tonnes from the previous month to 49.6 million tonnes, on the back of record-low plantings across 14.84 million hectares and an average crop yield of 3.34 tonnes per hectare.

This will be only the fourth US wheat crop to come in below 50 million tonnes since the 1981-82 season, when the US harvested its biggest ever crop of 75.8 million tonnes.

The US winter wheat harvest was reported to be 68 per cent complete as of last Sunday.

North of the border, the WASDE report pegged Canadian wheat production as unchanged at 34 million tonnes, which was up 5 per cent on last year's production.

The USDA estimated the total area sown to wheat at 9.8 million hectares, up slightly on the 9.7 million hectares planted last year - but lower than the June StatsCan estimate of 10.1 million hectares.

Wheat production in the European Union and the United Kingdom is also forecast to be down by 1.5 million tonnes to 139.5 million tonnes relative to June.

This is a year-on-year fall of 15.4 million tonnes and 10.2 million tonnes below the five-year average.

The planted area is estimated at 25.3 million hectares, which is unchanged from the previous month but 0.9 million hectares below last year and 4 per cent below the five-year average.

Yield is set to be 5.52t/ha, down 1 per cent from June and 7 per cent below last year.

Soft wheat production in France, Europe's biggest wheat producer, is forecast to fall by almost 21 per cent to 31.3 million tonnes in 2020-21 after many regions suffered from adverse winter and spring weather conditions.

A crop of that size would be 12.4 per cent below the five-year average and would be the second smallest French soft wheat crop in the past 17 years.

According to FranceAgriMer, the French wheat harvest is about 10 per cent complete.

In Russia, the USDA pegged total wheat production at 76.5 million tonnes, which was down 0.5 million tonnes from the previous month.

The total winter and spring wheat areas are estimated at 15.6 million hectares and 12.1 million hectares, respectively.

Yields between the two vary dramatically - with the winter wheat yield forecast at 3.59t/ha and spring wheat at 1.68t/ha.

That puts the total planted area at 27.7 million hectares, which is up slightly year-on-year and puts the average yield at 2.76t/ha.

Last month, most of the Russian analysts and crop forecasters were increasing their 2020-21 production estimates after weather conditions improved in June.

But poor yields in the early harvested areas has seen a sharp about-turn in sentiment.

IKAR lowered its forecast last week from 79.5 million tonnes to 78 million tonnes and SovEcon, which has been quite bullish all season, reduced its estimate from 82.7 million tonnes to 80.9 million tonnes.

The Ministry of Agriculture of Russia is calling its wheat crop at 75 million tonnes in its most recent harvest update.

The Ministry stated that 9.4 million tonnes of winter wheat had been harvested at an average yield of 3.24t/ha - up from 2.96t/ha the previous week.

It is only early days, with about 10 per cent of the winter wheat area harvested, and the upward trend is expected to continue as headers move into the regions that received more favourable conditions during the growing season.

The WASDE report has predicted Ukraine wheat production will be unchanged at 26.5 million tonnes, which is down more than 9 per cent compared to the 2019-20 season.

Local consultancy ProAgro is pegging it even lower at 26 million tonnes - suggesting extreme heat during spring in the south and east of the country has severely impacted yields.

The area planted to wheat is estimated to be unchanged at 6.8 million hectares, but Ukraine's projected yield is more than 40 per cent higher than Russia's at 3.9t/ha.

Perhaps one of the bigger surprises in the WASDE report, from a wheat viewpoint, was that it left Argentinian production estimates steady at a record 21 million tonnes - from a planted area of 6.5 million hectares and with an average yield of 2.23t/ha.

Prolonged dry conditions have severely impacted planting of this season's winter crop and emergence has been poor.

The Buenos Aires Grain Exchange has cut its projected planted area for the second consecutive month to 6.5 million hectares, which is the same as the latest USDA forecast.

And late last week, wheat production guidance from the Rosario Grains Exchange was decreased from 21-22 million tonnes to 18-19 million tonnes - citing lack of rainfall in western and northern regions.

Here in Australia, the USDA math was quite simple - a planted area of 13 million hectares, with an average yield of 2t/ha to produce a total crop of 26 million tonnes. This was unchanged from the June estimate.

While that may seem low in contrast to numbers that have been bandied around in recent months, the Western Australian crop is living hand-to-mouth at the moment and needs a serious drink this month to maintain yield potential.

Additionally, production in Queensland will be lower than expected due to much of the intended crop area not being planted.

Estimates of global ending stocks come in at a very healthy 314.8 million tonnes, generating a stocks-to-use ratio of 40.9 per cent.

Taking China out of the equation sees ending stocks fall to 152.7 million tonnes and the stocks-to-use ratio is much tighter at 24.6 per cent.

The key take-home point here is 2020-21 closing stocks in the major exporters are down almost 2 million tonnes, compared to June and production. Therefore, exportable surplus is declining.

The market reaction to last week's WASDE report was mixed. The Chicago soft red winter contract closed 1.8 per cent higher, but Kansas, Minneapolis and Matif were all relatively unchanged.

This was despite the USDA announcing on Friday a sale of 130,000 tonnes of hard red winter wheat and 190,000 tonnes of spring wheat to China.

However, wheat prices have been on the rise for the past few weeks as production issues began to outweigh the pressure of an approaching winter crop harvest north of the equator.

Black Sea values, in particular Russia, are the barometer for export values and it is quite possible that the season-low for that benchmark is now behind us.

The USDA has some lofty wheat export numbers built into its global supply and demand equation for the two major southern hemisphere wheat exporters.

Moisture conditions will need to improve in both Argentina and Australia for those expectations to become a reality in 2021.

Otherwise, further upward price pressure may materialise.

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