CWB forecasts below-average wheat crop

Recent rain alone won’t offset two to three years of dry conditions across much of the Prairies, which will be partly responsible for a below-average wheat and durum harvest in 2008, the Canadian Wheat Board forecast Thursday.

The board’s preliminary crop forecasts project a 2008 Prairie wheat and durum crop of 21.2 million tonnes, up from 18.4 million in 2007 but below the five-year average of 22.1 million.

Wheat, durum and barley crops are currently one to two weeks behind normal due to cold weather so far this spring, with temperatures 3° to 5°C below normal.

“A continuation of cool weather could lead to delayed development and increased risk of frost damage this fall,” said Bruce Burnett, the CWB’s director of weather and market analysis, in the board’s release Thursday.

Durum production is expected to increase to 4.8 million tonnes from 3.7 million in 2007, while barley production is predicted to slip to 9.9 million tonnes from 10.3 million.

Beyond Canada’s borders, production problems in the U.S. corn belt are expected to result in a “significant decline” in corn production this year, the CWB forecast. Above-average yields are being reported from the U.S. hard winter wheat harvest, currently underway in Oklahoma and Texas. Globally, a record world wheat crop of 663 million tonnes is predicted.

“The global price structure for wheat is expected to remain strong in the face of record production, given the high demand from increasing consumption and the record low stocks related to previous years’ production problems around the world,” Burnett said.

Weather in Europe has improved over last year, with record wheat production expected, while dryness is causing problems for North African durum prospects, the board said. Production prospects in the Middle East and Turkey have also dimmed somewhat due to hot, dry weather.

from Burnett’s presentation Thursday are available through the CWB website.

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