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334238

UPDATE 2-U.S. wheat harvest falls below forecasts, prices jump 4.5%

(Adds background, new analyst quote, details on demand)

By Mark Weinraub

CHICAGO, Sept 30 (Reuters) - The 2022 U.S. wheat harvest was smaller than previously forecast as dry soils in western growing areas cut into yields and caused heavy crop abandonment, the government said on Friday.

Chicago Board of Trade wheat futures surged 4.5% to their highest since June 29 as traders adjusted positions to reflect the lowered production view.

"People all summer long, and really fall, have been saying the wheat crop was awful," said Tomm Pfitzenmaier, analyst for Summit Commodity Brokerage. "This is a confirmation of what everybody has been saying, but they didn't want to believe it was that bad."

The disappointing U.S. wheat crop, the second-smallest in the last 20 years, exacerbated worries about global grain inventories as harvests from other major crop producers also have come in lower than initially expected.

Wheat stocks remained slightly higher than a year ago, the U.S. Agriculture Department said, as high prices cut into demand for U.S. supplies. But the overall balance sheet was still tight at a time when export disruptions stemming from Russia's invasion of Ukraine have left buyers scrambling to find grain.

"I see (U.S. wheat) ending stocks dropping down below that 500 million bushel level and getting kind of snug, particularly for our quality milling wheat," said Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist at brokerage StoneX.

In its annual Small Grains Summary report, USDA pegged the U.S. wheat crop at 1.650 billion bushels. That compares with market forecasts for 1.778 billion bushels, according to the average of analyst' estimates in a Reuters poll. The government had estimated wheat production of 1.783 billion bushels in August.

Domestic stocks of wheat stood at 1.776 billion bushels on Sept. 1, according to USDA's Quarterly Stocks report. That was up from 1.774 billion bushels a year earlier and in line with trade forecasts.

USDA said that wheat used during the quarter ended Sept. 1 was 543 million bushels, down 24% from a year earlier. (Additional reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by David Gregorio)

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