Smaller World Wheat Crop Seen As Plantings Fall

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World wheat production looks set to fall this year following a sharp drop in plantings in the United States but the crop should still be the third highest on record, the International Grains Council said Jan. 21.

The London-based IGC, in a monthly report, forecast world wheat production in 2010 at 653 million tonnes, down 21 million tonnes from an estimated 674 million in 2009 and around five per cent below 2008’s record 686 million.

World wheat havested area was seen at 221 million hectares in 2010, down one per cent from the prior season, the IGC said, adding the production forecast assumed trend yields.

“Winter wheat plantings in the U.S. were exceptionally low at 15 million hectares, due to the late harvesting of maize and soyabeans,” the IGC said, adding some wheat areas in the former Soviet Union had also been exposed to frost damage.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said last month that harvest delays, combined with poor prices, led to the smallest winter wheat plantings in 97 years.

U.S. wheat prices fell about 11 per cent last year, weighed by a second successive bumper global harvest, in contrast to many other commodities which recorded sharp gains.

The IGC raised its estimate of the 2009 world wheat crop by six million tonnes to 674 million, reflecting sharply higher estimates for the former Soviet Union and Canada.

World maize production in 2009 was seen at 791 million, up four million from its previous forecast and now unchanged from the 2008 crop.

The increase reflected a higher estimate for the U.S. crop of 334.1 million tonnes, up from a previous projection of 328.0 million and the prior year’s 307.1 million.

“Despite poor harvesting conditions the U.S. crop is seen reaching a record 334 million tonnes, 27 million more than a year ago but doubts remain about quality,” the IGC said.

The USDA bumped up its estimate of the 2009 U.S. maize crop to a new record, shocking traders who anticipated a decline after a difficult harvest.

The IGC raised its forecast for world grain stocks at the end of the 2009/10 season by 12 million tonnes to 385 million, an eight-year high and up from 361 million a year earlier.

Wheat stocks were seen rising to 197 million tonnes at the end of 2009-10, up from a previous forecast of 191 million and 165 million a year earlier.

Maize stocks were put at 137 million, up from a previous forecast of 134 million but still down from 148 million at the end of the 2008-09 season.

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