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What is causing wheat prices to remain $.65 below average? Economist Kim Anderson takes a look.

Kim Anderson

March 28, 2024

3 Min Read
wheat scoops

For the past 15 years (June 2009 through February 2024), Oklahoma wheat prices have averaged $5.85. Texas Panhandle wheat prices are normally close to Oklahoma prices. The lowest monthly average price during the June 2009 through February 2024 period is $2.90 (Oct 2016), and the highest monthly average price is $11 (May 2020).  

The average stocks-to-use ratio for the 2009/10 through 2023/24 wheat marketing years is 33% for world wheat, 41% for all U.S. wheat, and 50% for U.S. hard red winter (HRW) wheat.  2023/24 wheat stocks-to-ratios are projected to be 33% for world wheat (average), 35% for all U.S. wheat (below average), and 50% for U.S. HRW wheat (average).  

The stock-to-use ratios imply average or above-average wheat prices. At this writing, wheat may be forward contracted for 2024 harvest delivery in Pond Creek, Okla., for $5.20, which is $0.65 below the average price of $5.85. The 2024 Perryton, Texas, wheat harvest forward contract price is $5.10, and the forward contract price in Altus, Okla., is $4.90. 

One reason 2024 wheat forward contract harvest prices are $0.65 cents below average may be because Russia has been “dumping” excess wheat on the export market. Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. The invasion disrupted wheat exports out of the Black Sea region, resulting in above-average Russian wheat stocks.  

Russia’s five-year average wheat production for 2017 through 2021 was 2.87 billion bushels (Bb). Russia’s 2022 wheat production was 3.38 Bb, and its 2023 wheat production was 3.36 Bb. 

Russia’s five-year average wheat ending stocks for 2017 through 2021 was 371 million bushels (Mb). Russia’s 2022 ending stocks was 538 Mb, and the 2023 ending stocks are projected to be 452 Mb.  

Russia came into the 2023/24 wheat marketing year with 167 Mb above average ending stocks, and its 2023 wheat production was 490 Mb above average. Russia had 657 Mb (167 + 490) above average wheat stocks that needed to be exported. Russia exports mostly HRW and hard red spring (HRS) wheat. 

Total 2023/24 wheat marketing year U.S. HRW and HRS wheat exports are projected to be 365 Mb compared to a five-year average of 571 Mb. Russia’s total 2023/24 wheat exports are projected to be 1.87 Bb compared to a five-year average of 1.42 Bb. 

U.S. HRW wheat exports are projected to be 135 Mb compared to a five-year average of 372 Mb and 223 Mb last year. U.S. HRW wheat exports are in the tank, and Oklahoma/Texas wheat prices are 65 cents below average ($5.20 vs. $5.85). 

Another reason for below-average wheat prices may be the expected 2024 HRW wheat production. While wheat planted acres for 2024 are less than those planted for 2023, the wheat crop is in significantly better condition than last year.  

2023/24 HRW wheat ending stocks are projected to be 282 Mb compared to 223 in 2022/23. Increased ending stocks, higher production and lower exports are expected to result in below-average prices. 

At this writing, the market is projecting an Oklahoma/Texas wheat harvest (June through August) price of $5.20. A review of the 2009 through 2023 harvests’ (June through August) prices shows that when the average harvest price averaged below $5.85, the low to high price range averaged $1.68 (average harvest price ± $0.84).  

If the average 2024 harvest price is $5.20, the potential price range is $4.36 to $6.04. 

We’re 60 days or so away for the Oklahoma/Texas wheat harvests, and a lot may happen to wheat prices. But the odds are well above 50% that the 2024 harvest wheat price will average below $5.85 and, during harvest, prices may vary between $4.36 and $6.04. 

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