The world's got a wheat problem
It's shaping up to be a rough year for a whole lot of wheat farmers around the world. Whether it's too much moisture or too little, Mother Nature is bringing the pain to a sector that's already facing a tight world supply situation and, as it gets tighter, prices could be just getting started on their upward climb.
It's too dry in the U.S., Britain, eastern Europe, and Australia. And it's too wet in Argentina, where farmers are struggling to get what crop they do have harvested. No matter the weather extreme, it's creating a consistent likely outcome: Less wheat on the world market in the coming months.
Around the wheat world
Argentina's the anomaly in the world wheat situation. Too much rain in that country has played hell with that country's crop progress, both row crops and small grains. Farmers there are struggling to get their corn and soybeans planted while they try to get the wheat crop harvested, says Mauricio Torres, a crop adviser with BLD Agencia Chacabuco in the Chacabuco province, just west of Buenos Aires, Argentina. With more rain in the forecast in the next week, the problem may not go away anytime soon.
"It rained again last night and continues to delay the planting and harvesting of barley. Wheat harvest in the northem provinces has already begun, and there's not very good yields and quality," Torres says. "And it is not normal to have rains curb both. The soil is heavily loaded by the heavy rains, which have generated many drawbacks."
Staying in the Americas, the U.S. crop's suffering from the opposite problem. Crop ratings in the last few weeks' USDA-NASS Crop Progress reports (which ended with the November 26 report until April 2013) have been some of the lowest on record for that crop, and the severe shortage of moisture in the Plains states has some farmers already thinking of abandoning their crop before dormancy rolls in.
"We've struggled from a lack of precipitation to get a good stand. There's the possibility growers are starting to think about abandoning their crop. It's maybe just a little early to do that," says University of Nebraska Extension cropping systems specialist Greg Kruger. "We've had unusually warm weather this fall. If we can get a little precipitation on these warm days, maybe a little more wheat will come, and we could get a little better stands. But at this point, there's nothing else we're going to plant this fall. Leaving that crop until spring would behoove most growers."
Now, head across the pond to the UK, where drought's been the culprit of yield potential and a tightening of already tight supplies in the pipeline, according to a report from the UK Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board's Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA). Recent farmer surveys from that group indicate "weights are the poorest on record.
"Results also confirm this as the biggest domestic issue by far for the 2012/13 season despite satisfactory protein levels," according to an HGCA report. Overall, HGCA specialists say they expect crop output to fall at least 13% behind normal. Ordinarily, that would be a problem of moderate consequence. This year's going to be different.