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How does durum look around the globe?How does durum look around the globe?

Growing conditions in U.S. Northern Plains and Canada have likely hampered yields despite higher acreage.

Sarah McNaughton

September 12, 2023

3 Min Read
wheat with ripe grains
“If we look at the world durum dynamics, it’s the smallest world crop since 2001,” says Jim Peterson, policy and marketing director for the North Dakota Wheat Commission. Ninel Roshchina/Getty Images

While everyone wishes they had a crystal ball for their marketing decisions, no one could expect the changes that came the last few months. The durum industry has experienced many changes that may influence marketing decisions.

Jim Peterson, policy and marketing director for the North Dakota Wheat Commission, says USDA estimates share production is down in 2023.

“Current production estimates 57 million bushels, which is down slightly from a year ago,” he says. “We saw producers plant more durum this year. But due to our growing conditions, the yield estimate is lower.”

About 85% of the U.S. durum crop is grown in the Northern Plains across the Dakotas and Montana, with the remaining crop grown in California and Arizona. With grain harvest still underway across the region, Peterson says some of the Northern crop yield and quality is still to be discovered.

“Our desert durum crop was as high quality as it usually is, but we still saw that lower production trend,” he says.

Canadian supplies

Cool conditions and minimal soil moisture started off the planting season for Canada in 2023. With warmer-than-average temps through the growing season combined with dry conditions, rains in July and August were “too little, too late,” according to Peterson.

“They saw increased rain frequency and coverage of a broader area in late July into August, but especially in the durum region these came too late,” he explains. Even with drought hitting parts of the U.S., the Canadian durum region was still drier through the season.

“There were thinner stands and very dry soil going into the end of July,” Peterson says. According to Statistics Canada, yields were cut by almost 26% from 2022, an average of 26.8 bushels per acre. A second report on the season’s crop will come on Sept. 14, based on August crop conditions. “In this next report, I don’t think we’ll see significant adjustments, but some reports may have better-than-expected yields,” he says.

What’s next?

This year’s global durum crop will be the smallest since 2001. “The spring 2023 projections were actually looking at a slight recovery in production from 2022, but then adverse growing conditions came into play,” Peterson says.

He questions how much quality durum is needed to shore up these shortfalls, especially with the European Union’s demand for crop quality. “They have tremendous demand for durum for things like pasta that requires a high-quality grain,” he says. “Some markets don’t allow product substitution. But if you’re looking at a $4 price spread, certainly you can expect some substitution.”

In sharp contrast with the notable decline in world non-durum values, world durum values have moved higher. “The values have softened in recent weeks as harvest progresses in Canada and the U.S. We also saw some big buyers pull back on their tenders,” Peterson says.

A complex durum market leads Peterson to predict hesitancy on both the buyer and seller side moving forward. “The market is pretty tough on any quality issues, which has added another level of complexity,” he says.

With so much unknown in the coming months, buyers may experience a volatile price environment supported by historically tight crop inventories, he says.

About the Author(s)

Sarah McNaughton

Editor, Dakota Farmer, Farm Progress

Sarah McNaughton is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture communications, along with minors in animal science and Extension education. She is working on completing her master’s degree in Extension education and youth development, also at NDSU. In her undergraduate program, she discovered a love for the agriculture industry and the people who work in it through her courses and involvement in professional and student organizations.

After graduating college, Sarah worked at KFGO Radio out of Fargo, N.D., as a farm and ranch reporter. She covered agriculture and agribusiness news for North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Most recently she was a 4-H Extension agent in Cass County, N.D., teaching, coordinating and facilitating youth programming in various project areas.

She is involved in agriculture in both her professional and personal life, serving on the executive board for North Dakota Agri-Women, and as a member in American Agri-Women, Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority Alumni and Professional Women in Agri-business. As a life-long 4-H’er, she is a regular volunteer for North Dakota 4-H programs and events.

In her free time, she is an avid backpacker and hiker, enjoys running with her cattle dog Ripley, and can be found most summer weekends at rodeos around the Midwest.

Sarah is originally from Grand Forks, N.D., and currently resides in Fargo.

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