Russia setback curbs hopes for world wheat stocks

The International Grains Council downplayed hopes of a rebuild in world wheat inventories in 2013-14, citing a poor start for Russia's crops - and indeed downplaying hopes of a strong revival in Black Sea exports.

The intergovernmental group forecast a 4.0% rise to 682m tonnes in world wheat production, boosted by an extra 3.7m hectares of harvested area, and a rise in yields.

However, the rise had stood to be higher were it not for setbacks to the Russian winter crop, of which plantings were reduced by dryness, falling 8% year on year, and condition compromised by a lack of snow cover in southern areas.

"The crop condition of all [Russian] winter grains is inferior to the previous year and the five-year average," the IGC, cutting by 1.0m hectares its forecast for the country's harvested area, despite the prospect of some spring reseedings.

Small rise in stocks

And even with an extra 26m tonnes of production, world stocks will increase by only about 2m tonnes, thanks to rising use.

While the IGC did not detail its forecasts, this implies a figure of 178m tonnes, still well below the 197m tonnes reached at the end of 2011-12.

Besides an increase in food consumption, largely in Africa and Asia, wheat will see increased feed and industrial use in the European Union, "mainly due to an expansion for ethanol".

"Global stocks at the end of 2013-14 are placed only slightly above their opening level," with the rise in inventories largely expected for former Soviet Union countries, whose crops were hurt by drought last year.

'Modest increase in Black Sea shipments'

Indeed, rebuilding stocks will curtail the countries' ability to resume their place as providers of deep supplies of competitively priced wheat exports.

"Even if 2013 crops in the Black Sea region recover from the past year's lows, any rise in exportable supplies will be capped by below-average beginning stocks," the IGC said.

"Consequently, only a modest increase in Black Sea shipments is assumed for 2013-14 and this will help to underpin demand from other exporters."

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