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Invasion, drought and price spikes have wheat farmers wondering

Jennifer M. Latzke Wheat field
KANSAS WHEAT: The world is watching the global wheat markets in the midst of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, drought in the Plains and more, according to Kansas Wheat.
World wheat markets remain under close scrutiny.

The world is watching and wondering about this year’s wheat harvest — both in Kansas and abroad.

The combination of expanding drought conditions and steep input prices in the United States and the continued impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine has the markets — and farmers around the world — on edge. A collection of resources from policymakers and analysts offers insights into the economic impacts of current geopolitics.

“Continued disruption in Ukraine through their wheat harvest combined with expanding drought conditions here at home will continue to weigh on the world wheat market,” said Kansas Wheat CEO Justin Gilpin. “This growing season has the unprecedented combination of geopolitics, weather and some of the highest fertilizer prices and chemical inputs — but farmers here and abroad will remain resilient reminders of the importance of agriculture as a constant in a world full of conflict.”

World consumption

The world consumes about 787.4 million metric tons (28.9 billion bushels) of wheat each year. Russia and Ukraine are the world’s top and fifth exporters, respectively, according to the most recent available stats from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Together, Russia and Ukraine make up around one-third of the world’s wheat production.

Ukrainian and Kansas wheat farmers follow similar timelines for winter wheat production. The crops planted last fall should be green and growing, marching toward harvest in late June or early July. Following harvest, milling-quality wheat from Ukraine is typically exported to the Middle East, Africa and Bangladesh; and feed-quality wheat to other Asian countries, according to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in an April 6 international trade report.

Impacts to be seen

The impacts of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and disruption of these trading channels are yet to be fully calculated, but will likely extend beyond this year’s harvest.

On an aggregate level, global wheat production has been adequate in 2020-21 and only 1% below consumption requirements in 2021-22,” the report read. “However, wheat stocks among major global exporters have tightened in recent years as international trade has grown. Major exporters’ stocks in 2021-22 are forecast to be at their lowest levels in 10 years, putting upward pressure on global prices.”

Unknowns about how intensely and how long the conflict will affect world wheat production are compounded by the moisture concerns Kansas wheat farmers know all too well.

“While the Russia-Ukraine conflict remains the biggest driver of wheat futures prices, U.S. winter wheat in drought conditions across the Plains is becoming an increasingly bullish factor,” wrote Michael Anderson, U.S. Wheat Associates. “This latest concern is likely to overshadow USDA’s recent estimate for a slight increase in winter wheat acres, with potentially serious implications for supplies heading into summer.”

Harvest coming

Wheat harvest is still months away in both Kansas and Ukraine, and a lot could change in that time.

The speculation and projections will continue until the combines start to roll, but farmers will remain resilient in the face of whatever adversity they face and committed to stewarding their land and their crops. 

Source: Kansas Wheat is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.


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