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Rains 'to save' red wheat - but white wheat still under threat

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Officials cautioned over the need for further rain in US white wheat country, even as moisture is arriving in the southern Plains, stemming concerns that the hard red winter type which is the most popular in US cropping patterns.

The Plains hard red winter wheat region is poised for rains much-needed to ensure establishment of seed planted ahead of the 2016 harvest.

"A surge of heavy rainfall is predicted this week affecting the Texas panhandle, northwest Oklahoma and most of Kansas," said Gail Martell at Martell Crop Projections.

"A trough of low pressure would become entrenched in the jet stream in the upper-air wind field over the south west US, spinning out recurring waves of showers."

In the High Plains, the storms could bring up to 10 inches of rain, and at least 3 inches, Ms Martell said.

'Good timing'

At Chicago broker Futures International, Terry Reilly said that "with three-quarters of the US winter wheat planted, the rains couldn't have arrived at a better time".

US Department of Agriculture data overnight showed US winter heat sowings at 76% complete as of Sunday, only 1 point behind the average.

Farmers in the likes of Oklahoma keeping pretty well up with the typical pace despite what USDA scouts in state termed "prevalent" dry weather, with 60% of subsoil "short" or "very short" moisture, implying many farmers have gambled on sowing into dry soils in the hope of rains to come.

The forecasts for rain have prompted a sharp underperformance by Kansas City-traded hard red winter wheat futures against prices of soft red winter, as grown in the Midwest and listed in Chicago.

The discount of hard red winter wheat futures to their soft red winter wheat peers, which ended last week at $0.06 ¼ a bushel, reached $0.14 ¼ a bushel in early deals on Wednesday, comparing December contracts.

'In need of rain'

However, dryness remains a problem in the Pacific North West, the centre of US white wheat production, where the USDA data overnight showed sowings in Washington, at 82% complete, running 10 points behind the typical pace.

In Oregon, the second-biggest white wheat producer after Washington, farmers have also held back, with 60% seeded, 14 points behind the average.

And only 18% of winter wheat has emerged, compared with a typical 31%.

Both states are rated by the official US Drought Monitor report as being 100% in drought.

Indeed, USDA scouts in the state said that most areas were "in need of rain for fall-planted crops to germinate", with conditions "exceedingly dry" in the centre-north, and pasture health too poor, meaning some livestock farmers "feeding this winter's supply this fall".

In Washington, scouts said that rains were "needed for winter wheat seeding", with the east of the state in particular marked by above-normal temperatures and "very little" precipitation.

'Another lost winter'

The conditions raise the spectre of a third successive disappointing winter wheat crop in the region, sapped by prolonger dryness, and in particular in Washington which has fallen from the second-highest producer in the US in 2013, behind only Kansas, to the fifth-ranked last year.

Last year, when the country was also behind Montana, Oklahoma and Texas in output, Washington winter wheat yield, at 56 bushels per acre, was 19% below the 2013 level.

The data also play out a forecast made last month by Washington State University for potentially "another lost winter", marked by unusually warm and dry conditions.

"Climate models are unanimous in forecasting abnormal warmth, and that claim is bolstered by the presence of a strong and potentially record breaking El Niño," the university said.

"Relative dryness is less certain but still somewhat favoured by both theory… and history, which is observations of previous similar years."

Eight-year low

White wheat, used in noodles, crackers and cereals, accounts for nearly 90% of winter plantings, and 63% of the, far smaller, spring sowings, according to USDA data.

The US has already suffered two successive poor white wheat harvests, thanks to poor yields, with last year's, at 219.2m bushels, the lowest in 24 years.

US white wheat stocks are forecast by the USDA ending 2015-16 at an eight-year low of 49m bushels.

By Agrimoney.com

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