World wheat production on the rise again

Grain Brokers Australia, March 3, 2020

India is on track to produce its biggest wheat crop ever this year. Photo: Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research

THE International Grains Council (IGC) released its latest grain market report late last week, and global wheat production is forecast to set another record high of 769 million tonnes (Mt) in the 2020/21 marketing year. This compares with 763Mt expected to be produced in the current season, itself a record at 1Mt higher than the previous mark set in 2017/18.

Australia alone could more than account for the projected increase in 2020/21 global production as a return to a more average season would see at least 10Mt tonne added to domestic output. A repeat of the 2016/17 season could see almost 20Mt added to the most recent season’s disappointing production outcome, especially considering the potential area earmarked for wheat following the back-to-back east coast drought years.

Since surpassing the 700Mt level for the first time in 2013/14, global wheat production has been steadily rising each year. The only hiccup was the 2018/19 season where production dropped to 733Mt, primarily due to production falls in Australia, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union.

IGC estimates that the harvested area for wheat in the 2020/21 global campaign will increase 2 per cent year on year to 221M hectares. This is well below the harvested area record of 239Mha set way back in the 1980/81 season.

Global grain production has come a long way in the past 40 years thanks to the broad adoption of vastly improved agronomic practices. Back in the 1980/81 season, the world produced 450Mt of wheat. That represents an average global yield of 1.88t/ha compared with IGC forecasts of 3.52t/ha and 3.48t/ha for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons respectively. The turnaround in this season’s world wheat production compared to the 2018/19 can primarily be attributed to improved production in the major exporting countries, excluding Australia.

India looking at a record

However, Indian production has increased to such an extent in recent years that it is now a potential net exporter, albeit in small quantities, in coming seasons. India is the second-largest wheat producer in the world behind China. Early last week the Indian Agriculture Ministry released its grain production forecasts for the 2019-20 season, in which wheat output is projected to be a record 106.2Mt. This compares with 103.6Mt produced in 2018-19, the first time India had breached the 100Mt production barrier.

The expected bumper Indian crop can be attributed to two key factors:

  • Area seeded to wheat increased to record 33.6Mha, up 3.7Mha compared with last season and almost 2Mt higher than the previous record set in 2016/17;
  • The excellent monsoon season delivered 10pc more rain than the Long Period Average of 880 millimetres of rainfall. As a result, yields are expected to average close to 3.2t/ha, well
    above the national long term mean.

With the Indian harvest commencing this month, progress will no doubt be monitored with increased interest by the global trade.

Rise in global carryout

On the demand side of the equation, world carry-out stocks are expected to increase in the 2019/20 marketing year. The IGC has forecast global wheat consumption at 753Mt, up 2pc on 2018/19,
resulting in a 10Mt increase in stocks at the conclusion of the current marketing season on 30 June.

However, the devil is in the detail as this increase will more than likely reside in traditional non-exporting countries such as India and China. Ending stocks in the major exporting countries are expected to decrease to around 67Mt, a year-on-year fall of more than 4pc.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabian milling wheat demand continues unabated with the state grain buyer, SAGO, booking 715,000t for second-quarter. It booked 360,000t for Jeddah delivery at an average price of US$243.25/t, an increase of $3.35/t on the previous tender in October last year.

The average price for the 300,000t booked for Dammam delivery was $253/t, up $5.28/t on the October price. SAGO also booked one panamax for delivery to the southern Red Sea port of Jazan at $245.39/t.While the prices were higher than the previous tender, they are much lower than if the tender had been issued in January.

However, the more interesting tender result released last week was The Philippines, which purchased 275,000t of optional-origin feed wheat for May-July delivery. The May cost-and-freight price is reported to be around $238/t, the June price around $228/t and the new-crop July price around $218/t.

The majority, if not all, of the wheat is expected to be executed from the Black Sea. The only position where Western Australian values get close is May. But even then, last week’s grower bids suggest domestic wheat would still be at least $5/t out of the money unless the exporter owns elevation assets and is willing to discount the pipeline.

Additionally, the spread between the May and July prices is a reflection of the old crop/new crop inverse that currently exists in the Black Sea export market. While old-crop Black Sea prices have been falling in recent weeks, so too have new crop prices at almost the same pace meaning the inverse has only narrowed slightly.



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