November 27, 2003



Global 2003/04 Durum Wheat Production Seen At 28.5 Million Tons


Total worldwide 2003/04 durum wheat production increased 6% from last year, to 28.5 million tons from 26.8 million, the highest level since 1998/99, according to information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Production in the European Union, Canada and the United States accounts for more than 50% of the global crop, and down 2.4% this year. Although durum production is expected to increase in the United States by 22%, the Canadian crop is only 3% higher than last year. The EU crop is estimated down by 10% due to drought and higher temperatures.


Increases in North Africa bring the world total production past last year. Better weather in North Africa has favored durum production. Crops in Algeria and Tunisia are three times last year's crop size. Durum output from Morocco is estimated up 65% over last year.


Although U.S. prices peaked last fall, they fell before U.S. planting started in May and planted area was similar to last year. However, harvested area and production are up from last year, for both United States and Canada, due to a return to normal levels of abandonment from a drought-reduced crop year. EU demand for durum imports is expected to be higher because of a smaller crop in France and the strengthening of the Euro. Syria produced another record crop and exports are expected. Last year, Syria exported roughly 20% of their crop. The crop in Australia will increase to more than double last year's weather-reduced crop.


On the importing side, a record crop in Northwest Africa - used mostly for couscous and bread - and a larger harvest expected for the Middle East in 2003/04 has weakened demand. Higher production in some exporting countries combined with a weaker global import demand may put downward pressure on durum prices in 2003/04. Production in India, a major producer of durum --most of which is used for domestic consumption - is estimated to decrease by 43%.


Despite the smaller crop in the EU, extremely favorable weather and sharply increased production mainly from importing countries in Northwest Africa are expected to dampen world prices.


North America


Durum production in the United States is forecast at 2.6 million tons in 2003/04, up 22% from last year. More favorable growing conditions during 2003/04 in North Dakota and South Dakota are the main reason for the production increase in the United States.  During 2002/03, drought affected portions of both these states. North Dakota is by far the major durum producing state. Of the 2.7 million acres of durum forecast harvested in the U.S. for 2003/04, 1.85 million are in North Dakota. Montana is far behind in second place contributing 640 thousand harvest acres to the U.S. durum crop. Other states, including Minnesota and South Dakota only contribute 27,000 harvested acres to the U.S. durum crop. California and Arizona harvest about 220,000 acres of durum which is used more as a feed grain than for food.


Due to hot and dry weather in the summer, NASS lowered the yield estimate for North Dakota and Montana in August 2003. The hot and dry weather favored rapid maturation and promoted harvest progress. Later maturing summer crops like corn, sugar beets and soybeans were affected more by the late summer hot and dry weather in the Northern Plains than earlier maturing spring crops like

durum, spring wheat and canola.


Durum production in Mexico is forecast at 1.0 million tons in 2003/04, down 9% from last year. Output is slightly lower than last year, as overall wheat planting has been hampered by prolonged dryness. Reservoir levels in the northwest have fallen progressively lower since 2000, where states such as Baja California, Sonora and Sinaloa are major contributors to the national durum wheat total. Only tropical storms can deliver the volume of water necessary to rapidly replenish reservoirs, and the hurricane season has not been very active in recent years.


FAS-Mexico City reports a strong effort is being made to plant durum varieties that offer greater resistance to disease than those typically planted in Mexico, while providing higher yields. The benefits of this strategy will remain unclear until water for field irrigation becomes more available.


Durum production in Canada is forecast at 4.0 million tons in 2003/04, up 4% from 3.9 million last year, but well below the 5-year average of around 4.6 million tons. Because of decreased abandonment, harvested area is forecast at 2.43 million hectares compared to 2.25 million in 2002/03 - seeded area has been 2.48 million hectares for the past two years. This was the third consecutive year of yields well below 2.0 tons per hectare, as a result of heat and dry weather during critical periods. Durum wheat is grown exclusively in western Canada, and 75% of total production comes from the province of Saskatchewan.


South America


Argentine durum production is forecast at 125,000 tons in 2003/04, the same as last year despite a slight area increase. Durum planted area increased slightly in southwestern Buenos Aires Province. Argentine durum grows in southern Buenos Aires Province and is concentrated in the Tres Arroyos delegation; the area increase was in the Bahia Blanca delegation.


Planting of the 2003/04 durum crop in Argentina was complete as of Aug. 29, slightly ahead of last year's pace. Planting typically begins in late June and finishes by early September. Harvest begins in December and finishes by late January.


Europe and the Black Sea


In the European Union, durum production is forecast at 8.4 million tons in 2003/04, 10% lower than last year due to lower area and yields. Durum wheat is grown primarily in southern Europe, with about half of the total production coming from Italy. In Italy, durum comes from the southern region, which did not have the drought experienced in other parts of Europe. As a result production in southern Italy decreased only slightly.


France, Spain, Greece, Portugal and Austria also produce appreciable quantities of durum wheat. The drop in this year's crop came mostly from France with a decrease of 26% over last year. The yield in France was below average, although well above the EU average, because of damage from cold winter weather and dryness this spring. Durum producing regions in the EU are given a special designation, and farmers receive a premium price for durum wheat that they grow.


Syria produced another record durum crop for 2003/04, estimated at 2.9 million tons, up 4% from last year. Durum accounts for about 60% of Syria's total wheat crop. The largest durum area is within the Al-Hassake region. Harvested durum area is estimated higher than last year. This increase is based on better yields due to good seasonal rainfall and water supply availability. Approximately 40% of the durum crop is irrigated. Durum is typically planted in the winter and harvested in the spring.


In Turkey, durum production is estimated at 2.3 million tons in 2003/04, similar to last year. Farmers continue to plant durum in response to higher support prices as compared to other wheat. Turkey has a large pasta industry and is a major exporter. The Southeastern Anatolia region produces about 50%- 60% of the total durum. The remainder is produced in Central Anatolia, which is around Kayseri and Ankara. This year's good seasonal rainfall resulted in another year of high wheat output, although yields were reduced in parts of Central Anatolia, including Kayseri, due to hot dry weather in May and June.


The durum crop in Northwest Africa (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) is estimated at 4.8 million tons in 2003/04, up 138% from last year, due to favorable rains in the non-irrigated areas along Africa's Mediterranean Coast. Production has more than doubled over last season's weather affected crop, due to a substantial increase in area. All three countries enjoyed plentiful rainfall throughout the growing season, resulting in bumper crops for wheat and barley. While Morocco usually harvests the majority of total wheat in Northwest Africa, each country averages about the same amount of durum, from 0.9 to 1.0 million tons. Durum production is not as important in Morocco as it is in other Magreb countries, averaging just one third of total output.


Algeria's durum harvest was over double the five-year average of 900,000 tons, and far above last-year's drought-reduced crop of just 600,000 tons. Roughly 65% of Algeria's wheat produced is composed of durum. Tunisia's crop rebounded from last year, when severe drought sharply reduced last season's grain output. More than 80% of all wheat harvested in Tunisia is durum.


Russia's durum production is estimated at 1.2 million tons in 2003/04, 20% lower than last year. Although total Russian wheat production is forecast to drop by 33% from last year, harvest progress reports indicate that spring- grain yields in Orenburg oblast and Altai Kray, the country's two main durum production regions, are near last year's level. Roughly 70% of Russia's durum wheat is produced in the southern Urals region (specifically Orenburg oblast), with the remainder grown in the Volga Valley (eastern Saratov oblast) and Western Siberia (Altai Krai).


Durum production is highly variable from year to year because it is grown largely in zones of risky agriculture, subject to frequent drought. Durum is not considered to be a priority crop in Russia. Most farmers in the durum zone prefer to focus instead on growing high-quality hard wheat for bread because of hard wheat's larger demand, higher profitability, and better yield. Furthermore, few mills are capable of processing durum wheat. Durum harvest was largely complete by early October.


In Kazakhstan, durum production is estimated at 100,000 tons in 2003/04, similar to last year. Spring wheat production benefited from favorable weather throughout the growing season for the second consecutive year. In the early


1990's, roughly 10% of all spring wheat grown in Kazakhstan has been durum. Since then, however, sown area has been declining due to a drop in demand.


According to U.S. agricultural attache, durum wheat is now produced by only a few companies for their own needs, largely for macaroni production. Kazakhstan farmers are unlikely to increase durum production in the near future. Durum harvest was largely completed by early October.




Australia durum production is forecast at 275,000 tons in 2003/04, up 175% from last season's drought-affected crop. The 2002/03 season saw a strong El Nino effect and associated dry conditions, particularly in the eastern states, including the durum areas.


The current 2003/04 season, though improved over last season, experienced a setback due to less than favorable conditions at sowing and germination. Rainfall amounts in Australia's dominant durum area of northern New South Wales were below normal for the season, impacting sowing programs in May and June. Dry conditions led to reduced plantings and late sowing which will likely contribute to yield reductions.


Harvesting of the 2003/04 crop will begin in early December. There is limited public information on durum production in Australia as a result of limited monitoring and agricultural census budget cuts. In previous years, Australia has exported wheat to Italy for pasta production.


South Asia


India durum production is estimated at 800,000 tons in 2003/04, down 43% from last year. The 2003/04 durum wheat season in central India began with exceptionally dry conditions. After limited opening season rainfall at the end of the monsoon, conditions continued to deteriorate. The Rabi season in which durum is grown typically has limited rainfall. The 2003/04 season was exceptionally dry, with the central India wheat region being the driest in the previous ten seasons. The drought reduced crop was harvested in late April.


Durum is grown mainly in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, parts of Punjab, south Rajasthan, and Maharashtra. According to the Government of India (GOI) Ministry of Agriculture, production varies between 5% and 12% of total wheat output, and is likely more often on the lower end of this range. The GOI does not offer a separate estimate of durum through any of its crop forecasting or monitoring programs. It is possible as contract farming increases in the Indian agricultural sector, durum contract farming will become more commonplace and consequently production may increase in the future and the crop marketed separately.


Durum wheat comprises a small portion of the total wheat grown in India. Durum is called by various names such as Samba in Tamil Nadu, Ravva Godhumulu in Andhra, Popatiya in Gujarat and Khapli in Maharashtra. The "central zone" consists of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, the Bundelkhund area of Uttar Pradesh, and the south eastern portion of Rajasthan. The central zone grows both the durum and white wheat. Most of the wheat grown in this zone is rainfed, with the notable exception of wheat in Gujarat where a considerable area is irrigated. The Central Zone is the most important zone of durum production, and is grown under rainfed conditions.



Source: USDA