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Mid-Year Report: U.S. Wheat Export Pace Ahead of Last Year

By Claire Hutchins
With six months gone in marketing year 2019/20, USDA currently believes total U.S. wheat exports will reach 26.5 million metric tons (MMT), which, if realized, would be 4 percent more than 2018/19 and 7 percent more than the 5-year average. U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) believes the high quality and competitive pricing for select U.S. wheat classes and other factors definitely support USDA’s estimate.
As of Dec. 26, 2019, total commercial sales of 18.5 MMT already make up 71% of USDA’s latest export forecast. Commercial sales to 11 of the top 20 markets for U.S. wheat are ahead of last year’s pace and total export sales to all destinations are 6 percent ahead of sales on the same date in 2018/19.
Hard Red Winter (HRW)
USDA expects the United States to export 10.6 MMT of HRW in 2019/20, 18 percent more than 2018/19, if realized. Year-to-date HRW sales total 6.91 MMT, 24 percent ahead of last year’s pace and 65 percent of USDA’s total estimate. Exports to three of the top five HRW export markets are significantly ahead of last year’s pace. Sales to Mexico, the largest market for HRW, are 30 percent ahead of last year at 1.80 MMT. Exports to Nigeria are 19 percent ahead of last year at 580,000 metric tons (MT) and sales to Taiwan are 41 percent ahead of last year’s pace at 333,000 MT. USW believes HRW sales could continue to grow through the second half of 2019/20 assuming U.S. HRW prices remain competitive at the global level. According to AgriCensus data, on Dec. 30, 2019, U.S. HRW 11.0 percent (on a 12 percent moisture basis) prices off the Gulf was $222 per MT FOB and comparable Russian 12.5 percent protein wheat (on a dry moisture basis) was $3 per MT less at $219 per MT FOB.
Hard Red Spring (HRS)
USDA forecasts 2019/20 HRS exports will reach 7.10 MMT, in line with last year despite the significant effects of an overly wet harvest. USDA even increased its total HRS export estimate 2 percent between October and November 2019 from 6.94 MMT to 7.10 MMT. Year-to-date total HRS sales of 5.3 MMT are down 4 percent from 2018/19 and fall 7 percent less than the 5-year average. USW believes slower export sales could be attributed to HRS FOB prices between September and December 2019 that were higher than last year at the same time.1 Between late September and late December 2018, the average nearby FOB price for HRS off the Pacific Northwest (PNW) was $259 per MT. Between late September and late December 2019, the average nearby FOB price for HRS out of the PNW was $271 per MT, 5 percent more than the same period last year. Yet year-to-date exports to the top two importers of HRS are only slightly behind last year’s pace. Exports to Japan and Korea, top 5 importers of HRS, are both ahead of last year’s pace at 514,000 MT and 362,000 MT, respectively.
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