HRW For Every Need In Spite Of Exceptional Drought

May 20, 2014

Record high temperatures and high winds followed by near record cold temperatures this week added to worries about the drought and freeze-stressed wheat crop in the south-central U.S. plains. This is, perhaps, the worst situation so far in parts of the region, but better conditions in other states will sustain U.S. hard red winter (HRW) wheat availability.

Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas lead the United States in HRW production. The current drought unfortunately affects a major part of the wheat production area in those states. According to the National Weather Service, in some production areas less than 5 inches of rain has fallen in the last 180 days. The U.S. government rates the drought there as “exceptional,” the worst rating possible — its impact is also exceptional.

Crop scouts on the recent Wheat Quality Council tour estimated the 2014/15 Kansas HRW crop at 7.095 MMT (260.7 million bushels), unusually close to USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s (NASS) estimate May 12 of 7.087 MMT (260.4 million bushels). That is more than 18 percent less than Kansas farmers produced last year and, if realized, would be the state’s lowest production since 1996. USDA pegged total Oklahoma production at 1.7 MMT (62.7 million bushels) or nearly 41 percent less than in 2013/14. Sadly, that would be Oklahoma’s lowest production since 1957. Texas Wheat Producers Board Executive Vice President Rodney Mosier said that if Texas farmers harvest USDA’s estimate of 1.5 MMT (55.1 million bushels) of HRW this year, it would be “about half a good potential crop.”

In its first estimate of 2014/15 production, USDA forecasted total U.S. HRW production at 20.3 MMT (746 million bushels), which would be 16.5 percent less than the five-year average but 54,400 MT (2 million bushels) more than the 2013/14 crop. It is up this year because HRW planted area is larger and because conditions are much better in northeastern Colorado, western Nebraska, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Montana and parts of the Pacific Northwest. For example, USDA currently forecasts HRW production in Colorado at 2.29 MMT (84.15 million bushels), or 90 percent above last year’s drought-reduced crop of almost 1.2 MMT (44.3 million bushels) and 14 percent more than the 2012/13 crop. With ending stocks expected to be 5.1 MMT (187.37 million bushels), total available HRW stocks 25.5 MMT (936.87 million bushels) would be quite sufficient to meet average domestic and global demand.

USDA estimated total U.S. winter wheat production, including HRW, soft red winter (SRW) and winter white wheat, will fall by 9 percent for 2014/15 compared to 2013/14. USDA cited an expected reduction in SRW production as the primary basis for that forecast.

Depending on the weather conditions between now and the time the crop matures, wheat buyers should also find good quality in the new HRW crop from the south-central plains.

“Historically, Texas has produced wheat with high protein and good baking quality under these conditions,” Mosier said.

Mark Hodges, executive director of Plains Grains, Inc. (PGI), shares Mosier’s hope for higher protein, very good dough functionality and acceptable test weights in this year’s HRW crop, pending conditions through maturity. PGI supervises quality testing in the central and southern plains and supplies data each year to U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) — data that USW representatives share with the world’s wheat buyers.

“HRW wheat is grown in several different regions of the country, and USW reports on milling and functional quality from each of those regions and individual grain sheds,” said Kansas Wheat Chief Executive Officer Justin Gilpin. “Conditions, yields and quality vary from year to year. But, even with a short crop, there will be HRW wheat available this year for every need. And USW representatives will have the crop quality information buyers need to find that wheat.”

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