Wet weather drags down global durum production

Fusarium also an issue | Rain caused downgrading in much of the European Union and also plagues North American crops

There are smaller durum crops in many production regions of the world, but this year the story is all about quality, says Bruce Burnett of the CWB.

“The production in Europe is poor quality virtually in every country there,” said the CWB’s weather and crop specialist.

Harvest rains caused considerable downgrading of durum in the European Union’s three big production regions of Italy, France and Greece. The crop in Spain fared a little better.

The quality problems in Italy are especially troublesome because it is a major consumer of the crop.

“That creates a reasonably strong demand pull for North American durum,” said Burnett.

Unfortunately, North America has its own quality problems caused by excessive rainfall in late August and early September in the Canadian Prairies and the northern Great Plains region of the United States.

“We’re going to be fairly challenged this year with the quality of the durum crop,” said Burnett.

“(The rain) has undoubtedly downgraded the durum because durum is easily downgraded.”

There will also be above normal fusarium and fungal disease damage in the eastern portion of the growing region.

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“Right now the prospects are for a below average quality crop and certainly below the last number of years,” he said.

The crop is also late, so there could be further damage caused by rain and frost.

A mere two percent of Saskatchewan’s durum had been harvested as of Sept. 1. Farmers in North Dakota had harvested 14 percent of the state’s durum as of Sept. 2 compared to the five year average of 37 percent.

Burnett said there should be voracious demand for quality durum. Growers blessed with good weather can expect handsome price premiums for their crop.

In addition to Europe’s quality issues there were disappointing harvests in some of the world’s top durum production regions.

The International Grains Council expects world durum production to fall by 11 percent in 2014-15.

Canada is forecast to harvest five million tonnes, down 23 percent from the previous year.

The European Union is expected to harvest seven million tonnes, down 11 percent from 2013-14.

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IGC also anticipates smaller harvests in Turkey and Algeria due to droughts in those countries.

The U.S. Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) is forecasting 1.8 million tonnes of total wheat production in Algeria in 2014-15, down 45 percent from last year. There was no breakdown for durum wheat.

The FAS is forecasting 15 million tonnes of Turkish wheat production, down 17 percent from the previous year.

The upshot is that world carryout of durum will be five million tonnes, which would be the lowest amount in more than 20 years.

Burnett said Algeria and Turkey would normally look to the EU to fill their shortfalls but with EU’s quality problems they will likely turn to North America for supplies.

Durum prices in Western Canada have been rising slower than international prices, but Burnett thinks that will change with the emerging quality problems.

He encouraged growers not to panic and dump their poor quality durum right off the combine. The spread between good and poor quality durum will be wide initially but may narrow with time.

“When you get into this position where quality is a big concern there is a tendency for the market to maybe overdo it a bit,” said Burnett.

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