Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

U.S. Moves to Grab Russia’s Crown as World’s Top Wheat Supplier

  • USDA boosts forecast for U.S. exports, lowers Russia outlook
  • Rabobank sees ‘real chance’ for U.S. to become top shipper

Just a year after Russia won the title of the world’s largest wheat supplier, it’s already in danger of losing it.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has cut its forecast for Russian wheat exports this season for a second time, to 28.5 million metric tons. That’s closing the gap to the 27.5 million tons of shipments now expected from the U.S., which had its estimate raised by 5.8 percent.

With the ruble strengthening to the highest since mid-2015 and currencies slumping in the biggest buyers of Russian wheat -- Egypt and Turkey -- that’s adding to the cost of imports. Russia surpassed the U.S. for the first time in the 2015-16 season, after the devaluation of the ruble and a record crop boosted exports.

There’s “a real chance for the U.S. to come out on top” this year, Charles Clack, an analyst at Rabobank International in London, said by e-mail.

The USDA cut its forecast for Russian shipments due to slower-than-expected exports, it said in a report. Russia had exported about 60 percent of the expected total by early February, compared with 80 percent achieved by fellow Black Sea grower Ukraine.

The current predictions, which are for the season ending in June, represent a 12 percent increase in Russian shipments compared with last year and a 26 percent gain from the U.S.

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