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US to fuel dip in world wheat area to five-year low in 2018-19

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World wheat area for 2018-19 will shrink “fractionally” to a five-year low, helped by a further drop in US seedings, the International Grains Council said, while seeing growth in Argentine and Canadian seedings.


Global wheat area for 2018-19, on a harvested basis, will decline by come in at 219.4m acres, a drop of 600,000 acres year on year, the council said in its first detailed forecast for next season.


The forecast decline reflected in part a small drop, of some 300,000 hectares, in area in Russia, whose output prospects are being particularly closely watched after the country’s record harvest this year, which is expected to promote it to the world’s biggest wheat exporter for 2017-18.


The council said that, as of early this week, winter wheat planting in Russia’s Southern Federal District “had surpassed the [government] target and was higher year on year, almost compensating for some seeding delays in the Volga District.


Including spring wheat, total area at the 2018 harvest “is projected to stay high, at 26.5m hectares… due to potentially favourable returns”.


The council added that, for Russian winter wheat, “generally wetter weather in recent weeks has improved the outlook ahead of dormancy”, with well-established crops seen as having a better chance of avoiding damage during the country’s cold winters.


‘Fresh US lows’


The IGC also forecast a further decline in wheat area in the US, to below the level of 15.2m hectares (37.6m acres) reported for this year, on a harvested basis, which was the lowest since 1890.


The drop for 2018-19 will be only marginal, at 0.1%, in harvested area terms.


But with an unusually large amount of spring wheat lost this year to dry weather in the northern US, that figure betrays expectations a much larger drop in sowings which the council said were “projected to fall by around 4%”.


That would represent a decline of some 1.8m acres (730,000 hectares) from the 46.0m acres planted this year.


“Because of poor profitability, winter seedings are forecast to drop to fresh lows,” the IGC said, adding that “a further retreat in spring sowings is also possible, but much will depend on price developments and planting conditions” during the seeding window.


Wheat vs rapeseed


For the European Union, the IGC forecast a small rise in area, of 0.2% to 27.5m hectares, including the durum wheat used to make pasta.


“While some farmers may have considered switching to rapeseed, planting conditions were generally better suited to common wheat,” the IGC said.


It added that “abundant rains have resulted in some waterlogging in Germany, Poland and the Baltics,” while by contrast, “northern Spain and parts of Italy remained overly dry”.


Harvested area in Canada was seen recovering by 2.3% to 9.0m hectares, after losses this year to dryness.


North Africa decline


However, in the key import region of North Africa, the IGC forecast a drop of 4.7% to 7.2m hectares in harvested area.


While failing to give reasons for the forecast, it comes amid growing worries over drought in much of the region.


Earlier this month, 15 people were reported by the Washington Post as killed in a stampede for flour handouts “in a remote village in drought-devastated Morocco”.

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