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The U.S. wheat supply-and-demand outlook for the next several years reflected a mature market lacking in growth potential seen in other crops such as corn, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Projections to 2021 released last week.

The U.S.D.A. forecast an increase in wheat plantings in 2012 to 56.5 million acres compared with 54.4 million acres in 2011 and 53.6 million acres in 2010. But planted acres were forecast to drop to 54 million acres in 2013 and to 52 million acres in 2014. Acreage was expected to remain stable at 52 million acres through 2020 and then drop to 51 million acres in 2021.

The U.S.D.A. commented, “Strong wheat prices and expected net returns boost wheat plantings for 2012. However, with relatively weak overall demand growth for wheat, producer returns initially fall and then rise less than returns for other crops in subsequent years. This leads to a decline in wheat plantings to about 51 million acres by the end of the projection period, continuing a long-term general downward trend since the early 1980s.”

U.S. wheat production was forecast at 2,120 million bus in 2012, up from 1,999 million bus in 2011 but down from 2,207 million bus in 2010. The wheat crop was forecast to be larger in 2012 than in any other year through 2021 as acreage declines and then stabilizes and yields increase annually but only along an anemic trendline that reaches 47.8 bus per acre in 2021 compared with 44.6 bus per acre forecast for 2012, an increase of 7%.

U.S. wheat supply was forecast at 3,058 million bus in 2012-13, up from 2,982 million bus in 2011-12 but down from 3,279 million bus in 2010-11. Wheat supply in 2013-14 was forecast at 3,047 million bus, but supply would hold below 3 billion bus a year for the remainder of the projected period.

Food use of wheat in 2012-13 was forecast at 948 million bus. Food use was forecast to rise each year and reach 1,020 million bus in 2021-22. The U.S.D.A said, “Food use of wheat is projected to show moderate gains, generally in line with U.S. population increases.”

Feed and residual use of wheat was forecast at 200 million bus in 2012-13, up from 160 million bus in the current year. The U.S.D.A. forecasts call for feed and residual use to range between 180 million bus and 200 million bus during the entire projection period.

Wheat exports were forecast at 950 million bus in 2012-13, down from 975 million bus in the current year and down from 1,289 million bus in 2010-11. Exports were projected to fall in increments to aggregate 900 million bus in each of the last two years of the projection period.

The U.S.D.A. said, “U.S. wheat trade faces competition from the Black Sea region, whose wheat exports rise from 26% to 29% of global trade over the next decade. European Union exports rebound from low 2011-12 levels (market share of 12%), with their market share increasing to more than 16% by 2021-22. For the same period, the U.S. market share declines from 19% to less than 16%” U.S. wheat ending stocks were forecast at 887 million bus in 2012-13, were projected to rise to 891 million bus in 2013-14 but then to drop to 822 million bus in 2014-15 and 760 million bus in 2015-16. Ending stocks were projected to range between 697 million and 730 million for the rest of the projection period.