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WMR-World Durum Production Poised to Rebound

By: Jim Peterson
Posted: Apr 17 2024

The 2024 world durum crop is beginning to take shape, and early projections are for about a 10% rebound in production over last year.  The International Grains Council is projecting a 1.27 billion bushel crop, on par with the 2022 crop, but at a production level that will not significantly build inventories.   Higher output potential is being paced by rebounds in the EU, Canadian and U.S. crops, as well as expected strong crops again in Turkey and Russia.  Another year of drought in much of the North African region is a tempering factor in world output.  

In the EU, planted area to durum fell below expectations due to adverse weather at planting, but yields are expected to more than compensate.  Canadian durum area is expected to increase by 5% from 2023 to 6.3 million acres, based on a March survey by Statistics Canada, with production gains at a higher percentage as early optimism expects yields to recover from the 2023 drought.  U.S. durum production is likely understated by the IGC in this chart, as it was released before the USDA Planting Intentions survey in late March.  The USDA survey indicated U.S. durum plantings could reach 2 million acres, up more than 20% from last year. 

Both Montana and North Dakota producers are indicating greater interest in durum, driven by the price premium of durum to hard red spring wheat, and the sharply curtailed contracts offered for malt barley.  Based on the initial survey, acres could be well above levels of recent years.  The price premium for durum has narrowed considerably from earlier this winter but remains at a wider price level than the past couple of springs, likely holding a stronger level of interest in durum once planting commences.  Final planted acres could likely fall short of the March survey, as gains in traditional durum areas will not be as significant as non-traditional areas.  

Other important world durum producing regions to follow include Mexico, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey and Russia.  Mexico is expected to have a smaller crop, according to the IGC, and persistent drought conditions in much of the North African durum region is pulling back production estimates from earlier this winter.   Both Turkey and Russia are expected to have larger production for a second straight year, due in part to Government incentives in Turkey, and the price premium for world durum versus bread wheat in Russia.  Final outcomes in North Africa, as well as Turkey and Russia will be important variables in durum price trends in the summer and fall of 2024, as North Africa accounts for the largest share of world durum import trade, and Russian and Turkey are emerging export competitors that are willing to sell large volumes below North American and EU values. 

World durum prices have been flat to lower in much of early 2024, in large part due to the expectations for increased world production, but also tepid demand for pasta and other durum products in some market segments.  In markets where consumers do not have a strong preference for durum pasta, higher protein bread wheats are being substituted or blended, and world economic conditions remain somewhat anemic in many markets.  A larger world crop, if realized, will keep market trends in the favor of buyers, but world durum carryover inventories should not be overlooked.  Carry-in inventories in the EU, Canada and the United States remain historically tight, and even with the projected rebound in world production, inventories are still projected to remain similar by early summer 2025, leaving little cushion if production or quality shortfalls develop in the 2024 crop.

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