Reuters reported that despite the fact that wheat exports typically fell at this time of the year as soya bean exports took center stage, this decline was the greatest since records began in 1983 and reflected the diminishing share of the U.S. in the global wheat trade.

Just under 72 000t wheat were inspected for exports in the first week of November, which was lower than the previous lowest volume of almost 86 000t in December last year.

Although the export inspection data was preliminary and could be revised upwards by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), it was believed that this would not be enough to significantly change the outlook.

According to Reuters, when export inspection data was compared with export sales data, the actual number of shipments, not demand, was the deciding factor.

An earlier USDA forecast indicated that U.S. wheat exports could be expected to reach 19,05 million tons in the 2023/24 season, which started on 1 June.

However, by 26 October, export sales stood at 11,4 million tons, or about 60% of the annual target, compared with 72% by the corresponding date in the previous season.

The earlier USDA projections showed that U.S. wheat exports were expected to decline by 8% in the 2023/24 season, but by 2 November wheat inspection figures had shown a 27% decline.

Although it was unclear why wheat shipments lagged so far behind sales, logistical problems resulting from the low water levels of the Mississippi River could be to blame, according to Reuters.

There had, however, been one positive outcome for U.S. wheat exporters when Chinese importers recently made their largest purchases of U.S. wheat in more than a year, after heavy rainfall damaged an estimated 20% of that country’s wheat crop.

By 26 October, Chinese importers had secured 813 000t of wheat imports from the U.S., which was markedly up year-on-year.

Twenty years ago, the U.S. was regarded as the world’s largest wheat exporter, accounting for approximately 25% of all annual exports. In 2023/24, this figure will fall to a record low of 9%, with rival export countries continuing to push the U.S. out of the market, the Reuters report said.

By Elizabeth Schroeder