Spring wheat prices finished this past week in the red. The price movement came as markets reacted to changes in planting expectations, updates in the May WASDE report, and questions surrounding weather forecasts and planting in the weeks ahead.
Before we dive into the supply and demand factors in the space, let’s take a look at futures contracts up in Minneapolis.
- July ‘18: – 2.9% or 18¢ to 6.05 USD / bushel
- Sep ‘18: – 2.7% or 17.2¢ to 6.118 USD / bushel
- Dec ‘18: – 2.7% or 17.3¢ to 6.235 USD / bushel
- Mar ‘19: – 2.7% or 17.3¢ to 6.35 USD / bushel
Planting Progress Still Behind Schedule
Let’s dig into spring planting data.
Last Monday, the USDA reported that 30% of the US spring wheat crop is now planted. That figure is 21 points behind the five-year average. The chart below offers a glimpse of current spring wheat planting in Week 18 of the calendar.
On Monday, markets will look for the latest update on spring wheat planting. The five-year average for Week 19 is pegged at roughly 66%. It’s very apparent that heavy rains and snow, combined with cooler weather over the last six weeks has had a major impact on field activity.
Will Farmers Make Changes?
Delays in planting have spurred a wealth of speculation that farmers may turn to soybeans should moisture continue to hinder planting across key spring wheat-producing regions. The question as planting delays remain in focus is how late can farmers plant spring wheat.
The general rule that we know is that we want to beat the summer roast that comes in the June and July months. That has made the third week of April the optimal week for planting in many US spring wheat regions.
But… that hasn’t occurred.
Planting rates across the United States at one of the lowest levels since the early 1980s.
Just 51% of the spring wheat crop was planted in South Dakota through May 6th. That’s well behind the 93% planted last year, and 27 points back of the five-year average.
Farmers in the southern end of South Dakota had until May 5 to plant wheat and oats for the sake of crop insurance. Farmers in the northern portion of the state have until May 15. But if soil temperature and quality remains a problem, then we might see a few changes over the next week.
In North Dakota, 20% of the spring wheat crop had been planted as of May 6th (last year, it was 41% and the five-year average is 38%). In Montana, 24% of spring wheat acres are in (44%, 54%) while in Minnesota, 27% of spring wheat fields have been seeded (49%, 59%).
Keep in mind that the USDA projected spring wheat acres in South Dakota is expected to hit1.05 million acres, and that there’d be 1.6 million acres of spring wheat in Minnesota, 2.5 million in Montana, and 6.4 million acres in North Dakota.
Ultimately, with the delay in US spring wheat planting, we won’t be surprised if there is a swing toward soybeans ahead of the next WASDE report. How many of these 11.55 million acres amongst these 4 states do you think might not get seeded?
Canadian Spring Wheat Update
In Alberta, through May 12th, roughly nearly 9% of the spring wheat crop has been seeded. Back in 2013 (a year that we’re comparing planting progress to), 29% of the spring wheat crop was the ground. However, by the Canadian long weekend, practically 3/4s of the Alberta spring wheat crop was seeded. Simply put, there’s a lot of ground to make up…
This week’s Saskatchewan crop report showed 9% of all crops are in the ground thus far. While it’s indeed progress, but it is behind the 5-year average of 19% and last year’s progress of 11% of all crops planted. Specific estimates on spring wheat planting progress in Saskatchewan were not reported this week. The data next door in Manitoba is also limited, but estimates are that about 30% of spring wheat acres are seeded. FarmLead user reports continue to suggest that a rain will be needed soon in the Keystone province.
This in mind, after last year’s relatively dry year, the question of precipitation (and thus, soil moisture) is a pretty important one. At least one forecaster that we follow is seeing weather models for the Canadian Prairies that are similar to 1986, 2001, 2006, and 2012. This doesn’t mean you should lock your bin doors just yet, but it’s something to be cognizant of.
Also this week we got Statistics Canada’s estimates for grain stocks through March 31st, 2018. Specific to wheat (all wheat excluding durum), there is still nearly 13 million tonnes available as of the end of the first calendar quarter. This is basically unchanged year-over-year but 7.6% below the five-year average.
Wheat (excluding durum) held on farm still is sitting at nearly 9.8 million tonnes. This is 3.3% more than last year’s 9.45 million tonnes held by farmers, but also 8% lower than the five-year average. Comparatively, wheat held in commercial storage as of March 31st came in at 3.2 million tonnes, down 9% year-over-year.
We also noticed that Canadian spring wheat prices are softening a bit after their April highs. The uptick in acreage and expected increase in inventory levels are weighing on market sentiment. We’ll need to monitor whether farmers begin to move away from their planting plans and shift toward other options.
NAFTA and Global Trade Shakeup
This week, U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said that any renegotiation of NAFTA must be finalized by May 17. Otherwise, Ryan notes that the current Congress will not be able to hold a vote on the matter by the end of the year. Congress will be in a Lame Duck session – meaning that there will be many retiring or defeated (in this November’s election) Members of Congress voting on the bill. For many, it would not be a priority to pass a major trade deal.
This creates a wealth of uncertainty around the deal moving forward. Mexico is set to hold its Presidential election later this summer. It appears that a populist with anti-NAFTA sentiment is poised to capture the presidency.
As predicted, changes in U.S. trade policy have unleashed other nations to pursue markets dominated by American exports. The very suggestion of changes to NAFTA pressed Mexico to seek corn supply from South America.
China turned to Brazil, Canada, and Argentina for soybeans over the current trade spat.
And Australia is already saying that the TPP deal will give them distinct advantages over American wheat farmers.
This week, Australian trade officials touted the benefits of the TPP to the nation’s economy. Australia will aim to bolster its wheat exports to nations like Japan, which is currently the largest export market for U.S. wheat.
For now, we are 50% sold in 2017/18 old crop spring wheat and 10% sold in 2018/19 new crop.
Have a great week!
– Brennan, Garrett, and Adrian
May 10 – An Estimated 15.2 MMT of US Spring Wheat Production in 2018
May 8 – How Will the Argentine Wheat Crop Fare After Drought?
May 6 – Spring Wheat Weekly GrainCents Digest
May 4 – Africa Becomes a Booming Market for Canadian Wheat
April 29 – Spring Wheat Weekly GrainCents Digest
April 27 – StatsCan Expects 18.24 Million Acres of Spring Wheat in Canada in 2018/19
April 25 – What is the USDA Saying About South Korea’s Wheat Needs?
April 25 – Delays in Spring Wheat are Raising the Stakes