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WMR-2019 World Durum Situation

By: Jim Peterson
Posted: Nov 01 2019

Smaller world production and significant quality impacts in key export countries are fueling stronger prices for top quality durum.   World durum production in 2019 is currently pegged at 1.3 billion bushels, down 100 million bushels from a year ago, and the smallest crop in five years.  Production declined in many key production regions, shown in the accompanying chart.  

The decline within the EU is due to smaller crops in Italy, Spain and France, the three main producers. Italy had quality shortfalls as well.  This is leading to a 50% increase in import projections from 2018. The production declines in North Africa are solely due to a smaller crop in Morocco, with steady crops in Algeria and Tunisia tempering potential import needs to the region as a whole, but Morocco’s imports may be 10 percent higher.  In Kazakhstan, Australia and Mexico combined production is holding steady as slight rebounds in Australia and Mexico offset a 25 percent decline in Kazak 
production due to dry conditions. The smaller crop in Kazakhstan is a positive for U.S. export sales into Italy, as Kazak durum exports have increased in recent years.

In both Canada and the U.S., the lower production is solely due to sharp declines in planted area, and the current estimates are likely to be reduced in upcoming estimates due to adverse harvest weather.  As of late October, about 15-20 percent of the U.S. northern durum crop remained unharvested, with a similar percentage remaining in Saskatchewan.  This will tighten the 2019 world situation even further, once final numbers are released, but the primary driver in prices going forward will be the availability and producer movement of the highest quality durum balanced against how active buyers are in pursuing quality at premium prices.

The historic rains and early snowstorms across U.S. and Canadian durum areas have certainly taken a toll on grades, vitreous kernel counts and falling numbers. Some preliminary estimates are that only 30% of the Canadian and U.S. crop makes a #2 grade or better, with roughly 1/3rd of the crop in each country feed quality.
High quality inventories remaining from 2018 will be beneficial in supplementing some of the  2019 quality shortfall but higher prices will be needed to encourage producer selling. 

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