Wheat on the Edge

After some very bleak years, wheat bounced back as a profitable part of the farm mix. However, there is news in the USDA Outlook that suggests some troubled times for wheat. Excerpts of the USDA report are below.

Wheat Supply, Demand, and Price Outlook for 2013/14

Wheat production for 2013 is expected to decrease more than 7 percent to 2,100 million bushels despite increased planted area. The year-over-year reduction stems from a lower yield and a lower harvested-to-planted ratio. Harvested area for 2013 is projected at 46.5 million acres, down 2.5 million acres from the previous year. Winter wheat conditions are substantially worse in the Great Plains compared with last year at this time.

In the US “domestic use of wheat for 2013/14 is expected to decrease 68 million bushels year to year. Food use is expected up 8 million bushels from the 2012/13 forecast. Feed use is projected down 75 million bushels from the 2012/13 projection. This decrease reflects an expected larger corn crop with normal weather and yields, a smaller HRW wheat crop, and a less favorable wheat/corn price relationship for wheat feeding in 2013/14 than in 2012/13.”

U.S. wheat exports for 2013/14 are expected to drop 100 million bushels from the 2012/13 forecast to 950 million with tighter supplies and intensified competition from other major exporters. World wheat production is expected to recover significantly from last year with all major exporting countries except the United States expected to have larger crops. Kazakhstan, EU-27, Russia, and Ukraine account for the majority of the increase. High wheat prices spurred additional planting in Northern Hemisphere winter wheat producing countries and are also favoring increased spring plantings in Canada, as well as higher acreage in Argentina and Australia.

The 2013/14 season-average farm price is projected at $7.00 per bushel, down $0.90 from the midpoint of the record high range projected for 2012/13. Farmers traditionally market more than half of the wheat crop from June through September.

Post 2015 vs SDGs

I was asked recently what the relationship is between the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is a complicated question, particularly because the negotiation processes for the two are complex and not well aligned.

In my view, the SDGs should not replace the MDGs. The MDGS are yet to be completed and we need to remain focused on their achievement. To date, they have been the greatest focus of UN progress in development but there is more to be done. The SDGs can help complement the MDGs by looking at other dimensions but should not create competition for attention or resources. In addition, ‘success’ in the SDG areas is more complicated to define in a single, global way, and may depend more on national circumstances and outcomes. The Post 2015 process should take precedence and the SDGS complement any gaps as they are integrated, potentially into new Global Development Goals.

AWARD seeks Science Coordinator

African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) is a career-development program that equips top women agricultural scientists across sub-Saharan Africa to accelerate agricultural gains by strengthening their research and leadership skills through tailored fellowships. AWARD is a catalyst for innovations with high potential to contribute to the prosperity and well-being of African smallholder farmers, most of whom are women.

Since 2008, 325 women agricultural scientists from 11 sub-Saharan African countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia) have benefited from AWARD’s successful career development fellowships. AWARD recently launched a pilot program for women in five francophone countries (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte D’Ivoire, Mali, Senegal). I've met some of the brilliant women who have come out of the programme and have been impressed by all of them.

AWARD is currently seeking a science coordinator for their office in Nairobi. For more information, please visit www.awardfellowships.org.

Planting Intentions Drive Down Prices

A dip in commodity prices due to better harvests than was been expected in light of the drought in 2012 can be partly attributed to the miracle of modern crop varieties. This stock carryover, and aggressive planting intentions for corn in the US this season, are putting downward pressure on prices. USDA reports:

  • Corn Planted Acreage Up Slightly from 2012

  • Soybean Acreage Down Slightly

  • All Wheat Acreage Up 1 Percent

  • All Cotton Acreage Down 19 Percent

Corn growers intend to plant 97.3 million acres of corn for all purposes in 2013, up slightly from last year and 6 percent higher than in 2011. If realized, this will represent the highest planted acreage in the United States since 1936 when an estimated 102 million acres were planted.

Soybean planted area for 2013 is estimated at 77.1 million acres, down slightly from last year but the fourth highest on record, if realized. Compared with 2012, planted area is down across the Great Plains with the exception of North Dakota. Nebraska and Minnesota are expecting the largest declines compared with last year, while Illinois and North Dakota are expecting the largest increases.

All wheat planted area for 2013 is estimated at 56.4 million acres, up 1 percent from 2012. The 2013 winter wheat planted area, at 42.0 million acres, is 2 percent above last year and up slightly from the previous estimate. Of this total, about 28.9 million acres are Hard Red Winter, 9.67 million acres are Soft Red Winter, and 3.39 million acres are White Winter. Area planted to other spring wheat for 2013 is expected to total 12.7 million acres, up 3 percent from 2012. Of this total, about 12.1 million acres are Hard Red Spring wheat. The intended Durum planted area for 2013 is estimated at 1.75 million acres, down 18 percent from the previous year.

All cotton planted area for 2013 is expected to total 10.0 million acres, 19 percent below last year.

International Year of Pulses One Step Closer

With grateful thanks to the Turkish and Pakistan Governments who proposed the resolution and the representatives of 47 other country governments who form FAO Council, we are very pleased to announce that Council approved unanimously the first of 3 steps towards the declaration of 2016 as UN International Year of Pulses, to follow the Year of Soil in 2015. The process continues at the FAO conference in Rome this June and then onto New York and the General Assembly.

Congratulations to the International Pulse and Trade Confederation.

Insight deficits

In a world where Google and Wikipedia have put a global library at everyone's finger tips, we live in a knowledge rich world. Still for all the ability to look up facts and access information, there is still an inability to cut through the clutter and pick a way forward. Sunny Verghese, the Managing Director and CEO of Olam International calls it the "insight deficit". He named it the context of the challenges that lie before food security and the need for better more transparent markets.

Need for Balanced UN Text on Biofuels

Need for balanced UN text on biofuels - Gafta World April 2013From an article written by Robynne Anderson for Gaftaworld, Issue 201, April 2013

Biofuels policy is currently under examination by the UN’s High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) on food security. Set in the context of the FAO’s 2012 call for the suspension of biofuels targets, the primary aim of the 85-page draft text (PDF, 2410KB) () is to analyze the implications for food security of global and national biofuels markets. Read the entire article (PDF, 282KB)

Think. Eat. Save.

A global campaign has been launched to reduce food waste. Think. Eat. Save. is designed to encourage people to reduce food waste. 900 million people could be fed with the food that is wasted – equivalent to the number of hungry globally. A recent study has revealed that about one third of all food production world-wide gets lost or wasted in the food production and consumption systems.

Almost half of this quantity is the result of retailers and consumers in industrialized regions who discard food that is fit for consumption. The total quantity wasted is about 300 million tonnes, which is more than the total net food production of Sub-Saharan Africa. Visit the campaign at: http://www.thinkeatsave.org/index.php/about

Women’s Work is Never Done

The saying that women’s work is never done has never been shown to be as true as in the case of women farmers. African women do 80% of the farm work - including collecting water and firewood, preparing and cooking meals, processing and storing food and making household purchases. A study in Africa found that over the course of year, women carried the equivalent of more than 80 tonnes of fuel, water and farm produce for a distance of 1 km - mostly on their heads and backs. Some say this is equal to 2/3rds of the rural transport in sub-Saharan Africa.

Protein SuperPower

Using an analogy to Saudi Arabia's commanding role in the oil sector, Charles Elworthy of Craigmore Research calls New Zealand a "protein superpower". With a population of 4 million people, New Zealand produces enough food to feed 100 million people.

Specifically, New Zealand produces 35% of international wholesale trade in milk and 65% in sheep meat.

In making the case for investing in New Zealand agriculture, he notes the efficiency of production and the unlikelihood of an export bans. Another factor in New Zealand's success in proteins is the effectiveness of transportation. For many of the markets they serve, the cost of shipping from New Zealand by sea to the destination port is a tiny portion of the cost of domestic distribution inside the importing country. Road and rail transportation is a bigger part of the cost infrastructure for protein in importing countries.

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