Naomi Blohm

Naomi Blohm (Journal photo by Bill Spiegel.)

A glut of wheat in the world has dogged prices the last two years, but consumers are slowly chewing their way through wheat stocks. Prices should rebound sooner rather than later, said Naomi Blohm, senior market advisor for Stewart-Petersen.

“The worst of the prices are behind us. That’s the good news,” Blohm told growers at Wheat U in Wichita, Kansas, in August.

Since their peak in 2007-08, wheat prices have tumbled. For the next several months, Kansas City Board of Trade wheat prices will be locked into a sideways, back-and-forth tussle between $4.50 and $5.25 a bushel.

The fundamentals of wheat pricing are shifting, Blohm said. Corn and soybean acreage is on the rise, pulling acres out of wheat production. That’s happening even in traditional wheat regions, like Kansas, South Dakota and North Dakota. However, corn production in these fringe states is affected by drought and heat, which has reduced yield potential.

As such, there are signals that the wheat price is reversing out of its funk.

 

For all crops, Blohm suggested growers follow nine “Need to Know” subjects to stay abreast of global factors that influence grain prices.

1) Big crops all over the world. Wheat ending stocks peaked in 2016 at 1.1 billion bushels, but farmers the world over are growing less wheat. By the end of 2017, stocks are expected to be about 900 million bushels.

2) Demand has grown. Soybean and corn demand continues to remain strong. It has taken huge United States harvests of both crops the last few years to keep pace with domestic and export demand.

3) Weather. Not just in the U.S., but around the world. “Remember, the weather in South America is important from mid-December through March,” she said.

4) Geo-political drama. Brexit, Russia and the relationship between China, North Korea and the U.S. all influence global markets. Food security, and which country supplies food to the other, all bear watching.

5) U.S. dollar. When the dollar is high, commodity prices are down. For the past two years, the dollar has been stuck in a tight range. “The question is, when does the dollar break out?” she said.

6) China. The world’s largest importer of soybeans, China is becoming more self-sufficient in corn production, but still imports a lot of the stuff as a security measure. “They need our products. They need to feed their people and they need to buy from us. They don’t have the seed technology yet. But they will,” Blohm said.

7) Energy markets. Ethanol is a huge grain price driver. In 2017, the ethanol industry is expected to consume 5.5 billion bushels or corn, or one-eighth of the U.S. crop.

8) Funds. Investment funds influence commodity markets.

9) Seasonal price patterns. Look back at historical price patterns, which are a pretty good indicator of future price trends. (These charts are available by looking at Blohm’s slide presentation at WheatU.com.)

Bill Spiegel can be reached at bspiegel@hpj.com or 785-587-7796.

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