Wheat crop seen near record as U.S. drought recedes

Farmers from Australia to Europe to the U.S. are poised to reap the second-largest wheat crop on record as fields recover from drought and heat waves, boosting global stockpiles for the first time in four years.

Output will climb 4.3% to 690 million metric tons, about 10 million tons short of the all-time high set two years ago, the United Nations estimates. Global inventories will increase by 2 million tons to 176 million tons, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences predicts. Prices will probably drop 17% to $6 a bushel in Chicago by the end of the year, according to the median of 16 analyst and trader estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Food supply is expanding, with the UN forecasting a record rice harvest and the U.S. government the biggest-ever corn and soybean crops. Wheat closed at $7.1275 on the Chicago Board of Trade yesterday and last traded at $6 in May, before the worst U.S. drought since the 1930s and heat waves in Europe drove prices to a four-year high in July. Snowstorms in the U.S. have since helped boost soil moisture, Joe Glauber, chief economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said March 6.

“The supply situation was compromised through some very adverse weather events in the Northern Hemisphere,” said Steve Mellington, the chief executive officer of the Australian Grain Growers Cooperative, which has 350 members across three states. “Growers are now responding to those price signals with the increased area being planted this year.”

World Index

The supply outlook flipped wheat from being last year’s best performer in the Standard & Poor’s GSCI gauge of 24 raw materials to the fourth worst in 2013. The grain has fallen 7.2% while the S&P GSCI gained 0.4% and the MSCI All- Country World Index of equities rallied 5.5%. Treasuries lost 0.7%, according to data from Bank of America Corp.

Europe will lead the rebound and yields are set to recover in Russia, the third-biggest shipper last season, says the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization. That would boost inventories, said Bangkok-based Hiroyuki Konuma, assistant director-general. A recovery in reserves would follow three years of declines, FAO data show. The world grain crop, including wheat and corn, will probably rise 7.2% to 2.406 billion tons in the coming season, estimates trader Alfred C. Toepfer International GmbH.

Higher production should make for more exports. India, the third-largest grower after the European Union and China, may boost shipments to a record 10 million tons to clear out state stockpiles, according to the state-backed National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research. Exports were 6.5 million tons this year, according to USDA data.

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