Just one year ago, MY 2009/10 ended sluggishly for U.S. wheat demand.

Commercial sales stood at 22.7 million metric tons (MMT), the lowest total in 29 years. With what appeared to be abundant supplies of lower priced Black Sea wheat, most analysts and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had similar expectations for 2010/11.

USDA’s initial 2010/11 estimates showed only a slight increase in U.S. wheat exports to 24.5 MMT.

News about dry conditions in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan first appeared in June 2010 and grew more ominous through July. Then, just as importers were absorbing the potential impact of the deepening drought, Russia’s government shocked the markets by halting wheat and feed grain exports. Ukraine and Kazakhstan quickly implemented grain export quotas.

Because the importers that were counting on Black Sea supplies are kept informed through the 15 overseas offices for U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), they knew they could rely on the U.S. wheat supply to meet their needs immediately and throughout the marketing year. In just one month, USDA’s U.S. export projection jumped more than 40 percent to 32.7 MMT.

That number continued to grow as additional weather problems affected the Canadian, German and Australian wheat crops. Ultimately, U.S. commercial export sales reached 35.3 MMT in 2010/11, a 56 percent increase from 2009/10 and the highest level since 1992/93.

The largest growth in 2010/11 export sales came from the Middle East/East Africa region. U.S. wheat imports for Middle East/East Africa reached 8.7 MMT this year, compared to 1.5 MMT last year.

The top buyer of U.S. wheat in 2010/11 was Egypt, with purchases reaching 4 MMT in 2010/11. Iraq also relied heavily on U.S. supplies in 2010/11, importing 1.3 MMT compared to 305,000 metric tons (MT) in 2009/10.