Wheat up 90% in a month; US bakers demand curb on foreign sales

Javier Blas at the FT has the details:

Prices for top-quality spring wheat have jumped by 90 per cent in the past month and a half, boosted by a scramble by corporate consumers to secure scarce grain and speculative buying by investors.  A surge on Friday in prices for wheat used in bread to an all-time high of $19.88 a bushel – the highest yet paid for any wheat contract and a three-fold increase from a year ago – prompted the US baking industry to call for wheat exports to be curtailed.

The American Bakers Association stopped short of asking for an export moratorium but pressed for curbs on foreign sales. Lee Sanders, ABA vice-president for government relations, said there was usually a surplus in the US wheat market equivalent to three months of US consumption. “It is currently at a very low one-month level, which is extremely concerning,” she said…

 The US is the world’s largest wheat exporter. Faced with strong overseas demand after extreme weather damaged other countries’ crops, its wheat stocks are set to fall to a 60-year low this year. The shortage of top-quality spring wheat is forcing US millers to consider buying Canadian supplies… William Lapp, president of Advanced Economic Solutions, a Nebraska-based food consultancy, said that one of the key themes of this year conference would be the realisation that the price surge was not a temporary hump but rather a structural change. “We are not facing a short-term price blip…but a sustained move to a new and higher plateau for prices,” he added.

Meanwhile, Gillian Tett is seeing the other side of the equation:

A WFP official, for example, recently showed me the red plastic cup that is used to dole out daily rations to starving Africans – and then explained, in graphically moving terms, that this vessel is typically now only being filled by two-thirds each day, because food prices are rising faster than the WFP budget.