The debate on winter wheat sowings for the 2018 harvest appears particularly acute over US prospects.
Sure, many observers concur with a forecast from the International Grains Council last week that “due to relatively poor returns for both winter and spring varieties, [US] all-wheat area is projected to drop to an all-time low”.
Water Street Solutions, the ag advisory group, for instance, says “look for US 2018 acres to be another record low,” adding that the “rally in the US dollar has been the hardest on wheat competitiveness”.
(The US faces more competition in the wheat market than it does in corn or soybeans, for which export origins are far more limited.)
However, lining up against them are the likes of Mark Welch at Texas A&M University, who forecasts all-wheat area rising for the first time in four years.
“With a higher cash farm price for wheat in 2017, I do look for a small increase in all wheat planted acres for 2018, but still a historically low level.”
At broker Futures International, Terry Reilly forecast a drop of 100,000 acres to 32.6m acres in US winter wheat seedings.
But with “expectations for other spring wheat to expand 400,000 acres, and durum to remain unchanged, our preliminary 2018 US all-wheat planted area is 46.3m acres”, a rise of 300,000 acres year on year.
Still, that represented a downgrade of 700,000 acres from the broker’s previous forecast.
And Mr Reilly acknowledged some market estimates as low as 44.5m acres.
It would take sowings that low to drive US wheat production next year below this year’s (drought-affected) harvest, assuming 2018 sees a five-year average yield of 46.7 bushels per acre, and abandonment rate of 16.5%
Plugging in Mr Reilly’s sowings figure, meanwhile, on the same basis gives a harvest of 1.81bn bushels (66.3m tonnes) - hardly looking likely to do much to threaten ideas of ample world supplies of the grain.