WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — The end of March heralds not only the beginning of spring — which is a crucial time for both winter and spring wheat production — but also the first round of 2016-17 world wheat production forecasts and winter wheat condition reports, the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) said.
Black Sea — Spring planting began two weeks earlier than normal in Russia and Ukraine thanks to a mild winter, which also improved winter wheat conditions in Russia. As of Feb. 26, Reuters reported 10% of Russian winter grains were rated in poor condition, down from 11% in the last crop condition report on Nov. 25, 2015. However, Russia agriculture consultancy SovEcon still expects Russian wheat production to decline by 5% in 2016-17 to an estimated 58 million tonnes. Ukrainian consultancy UkrAgroConsult pegged 2016-17 Ukraine wheat production at 17.3 million tonnes, down 30% from 2015-16. Poor weather during fall planting reduced Ukrainian winter wheat planted area to 14.5 million acres (5.89 million hectares), down 13% from 2015-16.

Canada — On March 16, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada released the latest update to its Canada: Outlook for Principal Field Crops report. According to the report, relatively higher durum prices in 2015-16, especially compared to spring wheat, will increase Canadian durum planted area by 2% in 2016-17. Durum production, forecast to reach 5.9 million tonnes, will increase an estimated 9% year-over-year. Canada’s winter wheat seeding increased 24% with good planting conditions in Ontario. That increase offset an anticipated 4% decline in spring wheat seeding, due to increased competition from durum, oilseeds and pulses. Despite 2% lower planted area, expected higher yields will push wheat production higher in 2016-17, according to the report that pegged 2016-17 Canadian production at 23 million tonnes, up 4% from 2015-16.

European Union (E.U.) — According to the March E.U. crop monitoring service (MARS) report, E.U. winter conditions provided adequate rainfall and moderate temperatures across the region with a few notable exceptions. Northern Morocco and northern Algeria reported one of the lowest accumulated rainfalls in history. MARS pegged E.U. 2016-17 soft wheat non-durum-yields at an average 88.7 bushels per acre (5.96 tonnes per hectare), down from 93.1 bushels per acre (6.26 tonnes per hectare) last year. The E.U. report forecasted durum yields at 49.5 bushel per acre (3.33 tonnes per hectare), which would be down 5% year-over-year. The European Commission projects E.U. wheat production to total 142 million tonnes, down from 151 million tonnes in 2015-16.

India — Wheat harvest is currently under way in India, the world’s second largest wheat producer behind China, after heavy rains and hail delayed harvest in several key states earlier this month. Officials are still assessing the extent of the rain and hail damage. However, the timing of these storms is similar to those that cut Indian wheat production to 86.5 million tonnes last year. On March 19, Reuters reported as much as 14% of the estimated 93.8 million tonnes of production may be lost. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecasted Indian 2015-16 ending stocks at an estimated 13.2 million tonnes, down 23% year-over-year.

U.S. — While USDA will not release the U.S. Prospective Plantings report until March 31, it provided an early estimate in February for U.S. spring wheat and durum planted area of 14.4 million acres (5.83 million hectares), down 5% from 2015-16. Weekly crop progress reports for select states noted warm, dry weather in the Northern Plains allowed farmers to prepare for U.S. spring planting two weeks earlier than normal. However, that same warm dry weather is also decreasing soil moisture across the hard red spring (HRS) and northern durum region. As of March 22, the U.S. Drought Monitor shows abnormally dry conditions across most of North Dakota, U.S., the top HRS producing state.

Warm weather also caused winter wheat to break dormancy earlier than normal this year across much of the Southern Plains, leaving it vulnerable to a late freeze. Over the weekend, Kansas, U.S., and Oklahoma, U.S., farmers — who produce over half of the U.S. hard red winter (HRW) crop — experienced an extended period of cold weather. Southeast Colorado, U.S., also saw the freeze. It will take a few weeks to discover the extent of the freeze damage to the wheat. As of March 21, USDA reported 20% of the Kansas, U.S., crop and 38% of the Oklahoma, U.S., crop was in the vulnerable jointing stage. USDA will resume weekly crop progress reports for the U.S. on April 4.