Wheat Market: U.S. Farmers Have What the World Needs

    Wheat heads. Photo: Oklahoma State University

    In its June World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) noted that global wheat consumption is expected to exceed global wheat production for the first time since 2012/13 (June 1 to May 31). USDA estimated 2018/19 global wheat consumption at a record 751 MMT, up 7.7 MMT from 2017/18.

    Human consumption is driving this growth and is expected to increase 2 percent or 10.5 MMT, which is good news for everyone involved in the milling wheat supply chain, including U.S. farmers who are uniquely positioned to meet the demand.

    In 2018/19, the United States will hold the largest exportable supply of wheat in the world (production plus beginning stocks minus domestic consumption). USDA’s forecast for U.S. exportable supply of wheat is 49.7 MMT, accounting for 22 percent of world wheat exporter stocks. If realized, that is 8.2 MMT more than Russia and 13.9 MMT more than the European Union (EU).

    This large exportable supply of high-quality milling wheat highlights the importance of trade to everyone’s bottom line. USDA projects world wheat trade to increase 2 percent from 2017/18 to a record high 187 MMT (6.88 billion bushels), and the United States is expected to have 14 percent market share by volume.

    USDA predicts that total 2018/19 imports by most top U.S. wheat customers will remain stable year-over-year or increase slightly. Mexico, the top U.S. wheat importer the past two marketing years, is expected to increase total wheat imports by 8 percent year-over-year to 5.5 MMT. If realized that would be 14 percent above the 5-year average.

    USDA expects Japan, the top U.S. customer over a 5-year period, will import an estimated total of 5.8 MMT, down 3 percent from 2017/18. Total wheat imports by both the Philippines and China will remain stable year-over-year at 5.8 MMT and 4.00 MMT, respectively.

    Nigerian imports are expected to grow year-over-year to 5.5 MMT, 17 percent from the 5-year average. Korean total wheat imports will increase 5 percent year-over-year to 4.6 MMT. USDA also expects Indonesia to import a record 12.5 MMT of wheat in 2018/19, up 4 percent from the year prior and 33 percent greater than the 5-year average.

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    The growth in total wheat imports in these countries is driven by increasing demand for high-quality wheat products. In the top 20 U.S. wheat markets, human wheat consumption is expected to increase about 3.6 MMT year-over-year with the largest increases noted in China and Indonesia.

    Additionally, in those markets where the United States has a majority market share (greater than 50 percent), but that fall outside the top 20, such as Honduras, Costa Rica and Jamaica, human consumption is expected to grow an average 2 percent in 2018/19.

    With wheat consumption driven by “sticky” food demand, the long-term outlook for global wheat demand is strong. The short-term outlook for demand is also pointing to higher prices for wheat with USDA expecting 2018/19 global wheat production to fall for the first time in 5 years due to forecast production declines in half of the major exporting countries.

    All of which is good news for U.S. farmers who are ready to meet the global demand for high-quality milling wheat.


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