Looming oversupply may depress wheat prices this year
By DAN WHEAT
The Pacific Northwest will harvest an estimated 4.54 million acres of wheat this year, up 188,000 acres from last year, while wheat acreage will be down nationally, according to early June surveys by the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Growers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho expect to harvest 205,000 more acres of winter wheat than last year and 17,000 acres less of spring wheat. Barley acreage for harvest in the three states declined 42,000 acres to 597,000 acres.
Northwest wheat acreage is up because the vast majority of it is dryland and there aren't many alternative crops, said Tom Mick, chief executive officer of the Washington Grain Commission in Spokane, Wash.
Barley is less of a substitute because it is not resistant enough to chemicals used the year before on wheat when the crops are rotated, Mick said.
Nationally, 48.3 million acres of wheat will be harvested, down 3 percent from 2009. Winter wheat is estimated at 32.1 million acres, 7 percent below last year while spring wheat is estimated at 13.6 million acres, up 5 percent, according to NASS.
The national reduction is caused by Midwest farmers planting more profitable corn and soybeans in place of wheat, Mick said.
U.S. wheat in storage was 973.4 million bushels on June 1, up 48 percent from a year earlier, the NASS report said. Northwest wheat in storage is 78.8 million bushels compared with 65.3 million bushels a year ago.
Australian drought limited supply a few years ago and led to high prices, then overplanting, which has led to oversupply and lower prices.
Carryover stock of soft white winter wheat is up 30 percent, which depresses prices, Mick said. Excess production is expected this year in India, Black Sea countries, Turkey and Pakistan, he said.
Washington will harvest 1.72 million acres of winter wheat in 2010, up 80,000 acres from last year, according to NASS. However, spring wheat is expected to be 555,000 acres, down 30,000 from 2009.
"Unlike last year, there has been adequate rainfall and minimal winter kill (of winter wheat). Only limited areas reported over seeding this spring," said David Knopf, director of the NASS Washington field office in Olympia.