U.S. wheat acreage will increase this year, according to Michael Jewison of the Foreign Agricultural Service.

Jewison presented the 2011 Grain and Oilseeds report at USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum late last month.

USDA currently estimates 2011/12 wheat acreage at 57 million acres, a six percent increase from last year. USDA noted that the increase in demand for U.S. wheat due to limited supplies of high quality milling wheat from other origins will boost plantings.

Winter wheat plantings are up 10 percent according to USDA, with the soft red winter (SRW) crop having the largest increase. SRW plantings are up by 47 percent following last year’s record low of 7.8 million acres.

Hard red winter plantings increased by 1 million acres to 29.6 million. USDA anticipates a slight reduction in spring wheat plantings due to more favorable returns for oilseeds such as canola and soybeans.

USDA’s spring wheat acreage projection currently stands at 16 million acres, down from 16.3 million acres last year. Production is expected to decrease despite an increase in wheat acreage. Based on trend yields, USDA is projecting the national average yield to decline from last year’s record by 2.6 bushels, to 43.8 bushels per acre.

USDA also warned of an increase in abandoned acres due to the persistent dry conditions in the central and southern Plains. Current crop conditions for many hard red winter (HRW)-producing states are down significantly from last year, with 24 percent of the total HRW crop in either good or excellent condition compared to 50 percent last year.

USDA projects the wheat harvested-to-planted ratio to fall to 0.83 because of increased abandonment, down seven percent from last year’s 0.89, but just under the 10-year average of 0.84. 

A decline in both carryover stocks and production will push total U.S. supplies down this year. USDA forecasts U.S. supplies at 81.9 MMT, down nine percent from 2010/11. However, supplies will still be at their second highest level in the past 10 years and five percent above the five-year average of 78.1 MMT. 

Demand in the U.S. is expected to grow in 2011/12, with USDA anticipating a two percent increase in domestic use, from 32.0 MMT to 32.5 MMT.

U.S. exports will remain relatively strong due to tight carryover stocks from most major exporters. Additionally, exports from the Black Sea region will likely remain below average as governments in the region replenish stocks. USDA currently projects 2011/12 U.S. exports at 31.3 MMT, down from 35.4 MMT in 2010/11, but seven percent above the five-year average.