By Joanna Newman

WHEAT prices have firmed slightly over the past week, but are still well below the levels set at the end of October.

The Chicago December futures contract closed on Wednesday (11 November) at 292.5¢/bushel, up from 287.5¢/bushel just over a week ago. However, this was down from 300¢/bushel at the end of last month.

The market took little notice of news that the Government has cut its estimate of carry-over wheat stocks from 902 million bushels to 827m bushels.

Much of that drop is due to planned food-aid shipments to Russia which are already reflected in market prices. The ending inventory is still substantially higher than last years 722m bushels and this high stock level will maintain pressure on prices.

Meanwhile, the winter wheat crop is not yet far enough advanced to impact market sentiment. The planting is almost finished with 93% of the crop in the ground, in line with a five-year average of 94% at this point in the season.

Thanks to suitable initial weather conditions, 83% of the winter wheat crop has already emerged, also in line with expectations for this time of year. All eyes will be on the winter growing conditions in the USA, as well as weather forecasts for grain production in the Southern Hemisphere in coming months.

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