IGC pegs 2003-04 world wheat production up 34 million tonnes

by Emily Buckley
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LONDON, U.K. — In its second forecast of 2003-04 production, the International Grains Council pegs the new world wheat crop at 597 million tonnes with major gains in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Argentina more than offsetting smaller crops in Russia, Ukraine and India. The January Grain Market Report forecasts production in the five major exporting countries up nearly 43 million tonnes from last year which, combined with decreases elsewhere, will bring the total world wheat production increase to only 34 million tonnes, assuming normal weather conditions.

EU wheat production is forecast at 104 million tonnes, similar to its 2002-03 near-record harvest. With U.S. winter wheat planting up an estimated 6%, the IGC forecasts total U.S. production at 60 million tonnes, up 36% from last year, although lack of moisture in the Great Plains and early indications that spring wheat planting could be down from last year may limit U.S. production gains in 2003-04. The IGC forecasts Canadian production at 25 million tonnes, up nearly 60% from the 2002-03 harvest. The weakening of the El Niño weather phenomenon should improve conditions in Australia, and lead to increased sowings during the April-May planting season, boosting production to a forecasted 23 million tonnes, according to the report. Argentina’s production is projected to reach 15.5 million tonnes in 2003-04, up from 13 million tonnes in 2002-03.

Meanwhile, the IGC sees some decreases in production from recent bumper crops in Ukraine, Russia and India. The IGC reports that the overall condition of Russia’s crop is worse than last year, and wheat production is forecast at 42 million tonnes, down 17% from 2002-03. The IGC pegs Ukraine’s 2003-04 production at 19 million tonnes, down from 21 million tonnes in 2002-03. India’s crop is forecast at 70.5 million tonnes, slightly lower than last year’s 72 million tonnes harvest, due to reduced irrigation supplies and a poor monsoon.