Grain Exports from Port of Portland
by Mateusz Perkowski
The region has lost some export market share to Canada and Australia
due to the lack of available wheat for Asian markets
Last year's drought has cast a long shadow on wheat exports from the Port of Portland, whose grain handling volume has fallen by 50% in 2022.
"You can't ship what you don't have," said Kurt Haarmann, senior vice president of the grain division for Columbia Grain.
The 2021 drought's impact on production in the northern U.S. wheat-growing tier was the most severe seen in more than 30 years, Haarmann said.
The company's export facility at the port's Terminal 5 is more wheat-dependent than others in the area, which handle more corn and soybeans, and so was particularly hard-hit by the dry weather, he said.
Total tonnage handled by the port's marine division has declined more than 5% in the current fiscal year, with grain cargo seeing the biggest decrease of nearly 50%, according to a recent report.
Haarmann said the drought's effects have been felt throughout the farm economy in wheat-producing areas.
Crop insurance and disaster assistance from the federal government helped mitigate some of the harm to farmers, but reduced production affects other businesses along the supply chain as well, he said.
"That ripples through all those communities because ag dollars get spent time and time again," Haarmann said.
Typically, drought impacts are localized, but the lack of moisture in 2021 extended all the way from the Northwest to the Dakotas, he said.
It's likely the region has lost some export market share to Canada and Australia due to the lack of available wheat for Asian markets, Haarmann said.
"When we got to the tail end of the crop year, the supplies were really tapped out," he said, referring to the marketing season for last year's crop, which ended with this year's summer harvest.
Total U.S. wheat exports of last year's crop are estimated at 800 million bushels, down from 994 million bushels previously, according to USDA.
White wheat, including the soft white wheat commonly grown in the Northwest, experienced the steepest drop in exports, from 270 million bushels to 148 million bushels, according to USDA.
However, prices for wheat remain relatively strong and foreign buyers continue to need the product, Haarmann said. "We're fortunate to have a steady demand for wheat in the Pacific Northwest."
The USDA projects that U.S. wheat exports will tick back up with the current crop, to 825 million bushels for wheat overall and 180 million bushels for white wheat.
At nearly 1.8 billion bushels, total U.S. wheat production in 2022 is projected to rise from last year's level of 1.65 billion bushels, the agency said.
Winter wheat yields are expected to increase across the northern U.S. wheat growing tier, including 44% in Oregon, 74% in Washington and 28% in Idaho, according to the agency.
"We're looking forward to a much better year for all our communities in the coming crop year," Haarmann said.
Wheat Prices Fall to Pre-War Levels by Matthew Weaver, Capital Press, 7/6/22
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