US officials warned of conditions in Oklahoma deteriorating
in line with those of the infamous 1930s' Dust Bowl as they cut again their rating
of the domestic winter wheat crop, underlining findings of a much-watched crop
The proportion of US winter wheat rated as "good" or "excellent"
fell a further 2 points last week to a 31%, US Department of Agriculture data
"Plants are in their worst condition for this reporting week
since 1996," Commerzbank said.
At Citigroup, analyst Sterling Smith said: "More troubling
is the poor/very poor category which is at 39% compared with 34% a week ago."
The deterioration reflected the worsened health of crops in
the southern Plains, hard red winter wheat country, where a crop tour last week
of Kansas forecast the weakest crop in 18 years in the top US wheat-producing
The USDA rated the proportion of Kansas crop in good or
excellent condition at 17%, down four points over the week, during which "dry,
windy conditions prevailed".
In Colorado, the proportion of wheat seen as good or excellent
fell by five points to 31%, as "dry conditions with high winds last week
depleted surface soil moisture across the state".
Winter wheat in selected states rated "good" or "excellent", and (change on week)
Oklahoma: 6%, (-3 points)
Texas: 13%, (unchanged)
Kansas: 17%, (-4 points)
Colorado: 31%, (-5 points)
Washington: 40%, (unchanged)
US average: 31%, (-2 points)
In neighbouring Oklahoma, just 6% of the crop was seen as
good or excellent, down 3 points week on week, and dwarfed by the 73% rated "poor"
or "very poor", as temperature extremes continued in a state already suffering
from drought .
The state recorded temperatures as high as 103 degrees on
Sunday, amid a heatwave which has continued in southern Plains into this week,
while Friday saw a reading of 26 degrees Fahrenheit.
"There were reports of declining winter wheat conditions and
signs of freeze damage," USDA scouts said.
'Similar to the Dust
Indeed, "drought, record heat and low humidity" continued to
plague crops, besides causing wildfires one of which spread of 3,000 acres,
causing one death.
"Producers in the Panhandle continued to experience high
winds, cooler temperatures and low moisture conditions similar to the Dust Bowl
in the 1930s," the scouts said, referring to the period of drought and dust
storms which forced tens of thousands of families off the land.
The "extreme drought and windy conditions" had delayed
spring plantings too.
Hard vs soft
The comments come as hot temperatures continue to plague the
US south, although cooler temperatures are expected on Wednesday.
"Chances for rain through the latter half of the week and
into the weekend should offer some localised relief, but the overall condition
of the region isn't expected to see significant improvement," Brian Henry at
broker Benson Quinn Commodities said.
The poor health of the US hard red winter wheat crop has
driven the premium of July futures more than $1-a-bushel above those of lower-protein
Chicago soft red winter wheat, the world benchmark, and a crop in far better
In Illinois and Ohio for instance, two of the top soft red
winter wheat states, the proportion of crop rated good or excellent is 60% and 50%
Analysts are now expecting a US hard red winter wheat crop
of 762m bushels this year, up only 18m bushels despite higher sowings, and the
third lowest in 15 years.