Droughts, flooding, heatwaves, and even war threaten wheat production worldwide, pushing up the price of bread, pizza crust, pastries, and noodles. Just about every major producer is facing some issue, and the latest is in the US, where 'crop scouts' have begun to scour arid fields across the Midwestern US.
Bloomberg reports crop scouts from the wheat industry have begun to examine plants in farm fields in Kansas to Oklahoma to Nebraska. Harvest is just a few weeks away, and there are concerns devastating droughts have caused damage in US wheat country.
Some farmers already are writing off losses from parched grains. The US Department of Agriculture expects lower yields in Kansas, the top-growing state for hard red winter wheat, a staple relied on for bread flour. The shortfall is seen by USDA as pushing national production to the smallest since 1963, fueling fear of global food shortages as war in Ukraine and weather challenges elsewhere puts supplies at risk. -Bloomberg
It's very clear the world is now looking at North America for robust wheat production, and with that, there need to be optimum conditions and strong yields. However, that may not be the case.
"This is a very challenging year with not a lot of good news," said crop scout Romulo Lollato, a wheat specialist at Kansas State University. He pointed out that minimal rainfall and freezing temperatures in early April could have damaged crop yields.
Aaron Harries, vice president of research and operations for Kansas Wheat, said, "it's been a weather roller coaster" across the Midwest.
Some scouts see bright spots after recent rains. Though a megadrought continues to consume large swathes of farmland.
Meanwhile, wheat futures in Chicago are soaring, near all-time highs, as traders are pricing in what could be a year of low harvest production.
Last week, the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report published by the USDA showed wheat production in Ukraine is expected to plunge by one-third this season compared with last year.
AGRICULTURAL MARKETS: The USDA just published its first really detailed look at 2022-23 crop year, painting a tight outlook for corn and wheat, with production down. On the other hand, rice will enjoy a larger — and record high — harvest | #OATT #Ukraine pic.twitter.com/MJgXcZRje4
— Javier Blas (@JavierBlas) May 12, 2022
There are also concerns in Canada, India, and China about harvest declines due to adverse weather conditions. Then there's the Black Sea region, plagued by war that will plunge crop production this year and next.
The final production numbers for the US won't be known for months, though crop scouts will have an idea of what wheat supplies could look like after they wrap up their inspections. USDA's expected to release its estimate based on hundreds of samples on Thursday.