US wheat crop output suffers from drought

Washington, June 16 (IANS) Almost four months after the Russia-Ukraine war impacted the global wheat trade, the world was looking forward to the harvest from the US – the world’s fourth largest wheat exporter – but a massive drought has hit the output there with wheat production forecast at 1.18 billion bushels, down 7 per cent from 2021.

“From California to Texas, hot, dry weather compounded the effects of a punishing drought,” a US government report about the weekly weather and crop condition said, adding: “Drought-related complications included dwindling surface water supplies, severe stress on rangeland, pastures, and rain-fed summer crops, and record-setting wildfires.”

However, it is the wheat production that has borne the major brunt of this drought. The situation was already alarming after China and parts of Europe showed declining prospects for what and India putting in place an export ban on wheat.

The US has two wheat crops: spring wheat, planted around May-June, and winter wheat, planted in autumn that will be harvested soon. If local media reports are to be believed, both are in trouble as was also evident by the media reports pointing out how the benchmark Chicago Board of Trade wheat prices had surged 50 per cent to more than $13.60 a bushel (1 kg is 0.033 bushels for dry grains) after the Russia-Ukraine war brought to a grinding halt all shipments amounting to almost a third of the world’s wheat exports.

The crop bulletin, dated June 14, for winter wheat, said: “On June 12, 31 per cent of the 2022 winter wheat crop was reported in good to excellent condition, 1 percentage point above the previous week but 17 points below last year.”

For the earlier situation, it said: “By June 12, 86 per cent of the nation’s winter wheat crop was headed 5 percentage points behind last year and 4 points behind the 5-year average. Ten percent of the 2022 winter wheat acreage had been harvested by June 12, six percentage points ahead of last year but 2 points behind average.”

In Kansas, the largest winter wheat-producing state, 26 per cent of the winter wheat crop was rated in good to excellent condition, the report stated.

The major winter wheat growing states – Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Washington – planted 89 per cent of last year’s winter wheat acreage even as these states harvested 91 per cent of last year’s winter wheat acreage.

Six states – Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington – planted 100 per cent of last year’s spring wheat acreage.

The USDA’s Agricultural Statistics Board on June 10, 2022 said: “Winter wheat production is forecast at 1.18 billion bushels, up 1 per cent from the May 1 forecast but down 7 per cent from 2021.”

The US yield is forecast at 48.2 bushels per acre, up 0.3 bushel from last month but down 2 bushels from last year’s average yield of 50.2 bushels per acre. Hard Red Winter production, at 582 million bushels, is down 1 per cent from last month. Soft Red Winter, at 358 million bushels, is up 1 per cent from the May forecast. White Winter, at 242 million bushels, is up 5 per cent from last month. Of the White Winter production, 15.6 million bushels are Hard White and 226 million bushels are Soft White, the government data said.

Earlier, by May 1, 23 per cent of the US’ winter wheat crop was headed 3 percentage points behind last year and 6 points behind the 5-year average. By May 15, 48 per cent of the winter wheat was headed 3 percentage points behind last year and 5 points behind average. By May 29, 72 per cent of the winter wheat crop was headed 5 percentage points behind last year and 4 points behind average.

On May 29, almost 29 per cent of the winter wheat was reported in good to excellent condition, 19 percentage points below the same time last year.