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Higher Wheat Prices Likely Have
'Staying Power,' Market Experts Say

by Matthew Weaver
Capital Press, December 31, 2020

Soft white wheat is about $6.65 per bushel

Combines harvest soft white wheat in a field north of Helix, Ore. Wheat prices have increased in recent weeks. Wheat prices have hit new highs for the past 12 months, and market analysts say they don't see a decline any time soon.

Soft white wheat is about $6.65 per bushel, according to Northwest Grain Growers in Walla Walla, Wash. USDA shows wheat at $6.40 per bushel on the Portland market.

"It's the highest we've been all year," said Byron Behne, Northwest Grain Growers senior grain merchant.

Futures prices are matching highs from the previous price rally, Behne said.

"To be perfectly honest, I'm as surprised as anybody," said Darin Newsom, market analyst in Omaha, Neb. "I have no idea why. Demand isn't great. Stocks-to-use is down from previous years but not dramatically tight."

Newsom originally thought it could be a brief spike due to higher trade volumes, but he now says it has "staying power" and is building.

"There's something going on fundamentally, particularly in the old crop market right now, that's pushing this market higher," he said.

It's difficult to determine any one reason for the higher prices, Behne said. It could just be the end of the year, concerns about the condition of the Russian wheat crop or expected purchases by China later in the spring, he said.

"I certainly wasn't expecting this after we had the huge crop of white wheat in the Northwest this year," Behne said.

Drought in Russia and China buying more U.S. wheat after drastically reducing its purchases of wheat from Australia "flipped the landscape," he said.

Newsom attributes part of the rise to the weakening of the U.S. dollar, which is at its lowest level since April 2019.

The U.S. dollar is currently equal to 103.26 Japanese yen. Over the past year, it has ranged from 101.19 to 112.23 yen.

The dollar is equal to .81 euros. In the last year, it was as high as 0.94 euros.

It is equal to .73 British pounds. In the last year, it was as high as 0.88 pounds.

During harvest, wheat prices were about $4.50 per bushel, said Glen Squires, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission. Generally, farmers consider roughly $6 per bushel to be profitable, he said.

The $2 increase was a "welcome sign," Squires said.

Newsom believes the higher wheat prices could last at least through the winter and possibly into early spring.

Behne doesn't see a lot of downside for wheat prices, saying they feel "pretty firm."

It depends on when and where China purchases its next round of wheat, Behne said. There's likely 25% of the crop left to buy in the Northwest, he said.

"I think to get to like $7 (per bushel), we're going to have to see Russia in bad shape once the crop breaks dormancy in the spring to get the world markets excited," he said.

Matthew Weaver
Higher Wheat Prices Likely Have 'Staying Power,' Market Experts Say
Capital Press, December 31, 2020

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