Amid the global uncertainty created by Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was always going to embrace a cautious approach to this month's World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE).
The latest WASDE report was released on Wednesday last week.
But any market impact was entirely overshadowed by the ongoing volatility stemming from Putin's war of aggression against its eastern neighbour, Ukraine, which was once a pivotal part of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for which Putin still deludes.
A few hours before the USDA released its March WASDE report, the Ukraine government announced an export ban on wheat, corn, sunflower oil, oats, rye, barley, sugar and cattle as authorities work to ensure they can feed the people during the escalating conflict with Russia.
And on Friday last week, The Kremlin announced it was suspending exports of wheat, meslin, rye, barley and corn to the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) until August 31, in a move to secure its own domestic supplies.
The current EAEU member states are Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia.
Millers in Kazakhstan were quick to react, asking the government to ban wheat exports due to critically low domestic supplies.
Kazakhstan has had a strong export program into other Central Asian countries and can no longer rely on imports from Russia to meet the domestic shortfall through to the new crop harvest due to the EAEU export ban.
The USDA's March wheat outlook for the 2021-22 marketing year is for higher production, decreased trade and consumption and higher ending stocks.
Global production was increased by 2.1 million tonnes on the back of an increase in Australian output from 34 million tonnes to 36.3 million tonnes.
The USDA took its lead from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES), which increased its production estimate earlier this month.
While it may be a record production number, it is still at least 3 million tonnes shy of reality.
Worldwide wheat exports were decreased by 3.58 million tonnes by the USDA and, unsurprisingly, the Black Sea Region copped a haircut.
Russian and Ukraine export estimates were lowered by 3 million tonnes and 4 million tonnes respectively to 32 million tonnes and 20 million tonnes.
Nobody knows the true impact of the Russian invasion on Black Sea exports, suffice to say that the longer it goes on, the greater and more prolonged the negative impact.
The cut to Black Sea exports was partially offset by a 2 million tonne increase in Australian exports to a record 27.5 million tonnes for the October 1, 2021, to September 30, 2022, period.
The other significant increase was India, which has been taking full advantage of this season's high price environment.
That country's wheat exports are forecast to increase by 1.5 million tonnes to a record 8.5 million tonnes on the back of a record crop, which the USDA pegged at 109.59 million tonnes.
Interestingly, it seems that US wheat isn't even a contender to assist the tightening global wheat equation - despite the significant reduction in Black Sea exports.
In fact, the USDA decreased US export estimates for the current marketing year from 22.05 million tonnes to 21.77 million tonnes.
US export activity has hardly blinked since the Russian invasion started almost three weeks ago, with the latest export data quite underwhelming given the global circumstances.
Global barley production was increased slightly from 145.79 million tonnes to 146.14 million tonnes.
Again, it was Australia which was the big mover - with the USDA calling the local crop at 13.7 million tonnes, which is 0.7 million tonnes higher than the February figure and in line with the latest ABARES estimate.
Countering that increase was a 0.3 million tonne decrease in Ukraine output to 9.9 million tonnes.
On the trade front, international barley exports are forecast to increase by 0.57 million tonnes to 34.68 million tonnes.
Australia accounts for almost all of the increase, with shipments expected to rise from 8.5 million tonnes to 9 million tonnes in the 12 months to September 30 this year.
An export increase of 0.2 million tonnes to 1.8 million tonnes for Canada was entirely negated by a matching decrease for Ukraine exports to 5.8 million tonnes.
The other mover on the USDA's barley trade matrix was Moldova, Ukraine's small south-eastern neighbour, where exports are estimated at 0.15 million tonnes - up from 0.08 million tonnes last month.
The USDA increased worldwide canola production by 0.5 million tonnes to 71.12 million tonnes, which was down more than 2 million tonnes year-on-year.
Australian production was raised by 0.85 million tonnes to a record 6.35 million tonnes, which was 48.4 per cent higher than last year's record crop of 4.28 million tonnes.
The European Union output was trimmed by 0.2 million tonnes to 17.15 million tonnes.
Total global trade was unchanged at 13.73 million tonnes.
But Australian shipments were increased by 0.4 million tonnes to a record 4.8 million tonnes on the back of the massive crop.
Australian sorghum production was increased by 0.3 million tonnes to 2.3 million tonnes, accounting for the entire increase in global output of 65.6 million tonnes.
Australian exports increased by 0.2 million tonnes to 1.6 million tonnes, the sole contributor to a worldwide export increase of the same magnitude to 12.73 million tonnes in the marketing year ending September 30.
The USDA's 2021-22 export forecast begs a huge question about Australia's shipping capability.
In the 12 months to September 30, 2021, Australia exported 23.72 million tonnes of wheat, 7.92 million tonnes of barley, 3.44 million tonnes of canola and 1.2 million tonnes of sorghum. This was an aggregate export program of 36.27 million tonnes.
But we must remember that the Australian pipeline was empty leading up to the 2020 harvest, and combined exports for the four commodities in the first two months of the marketing year were only 1.61 million tonnes.
In October and November of last year, these totalled 4.98 million tonnes.
The USDA has pencilled Australia in for a total of 42.9 million tonnes in the year commencing October 1, 2021.
Using the period from December 2020 to November 2021 as the best recent proxy for Australia's grain export capability, the total for the four key commodities was 39.65 million tonnes.
This is a difference of 3.25 million tonnes, or an additional five panamax vessels per month across the entire season.
The new crop program has ramped-up very quickly following a record harvest, with 3.55 million tonnes of exports in December - including some old crop sorghum.
January was even better at 4.18 million tonnes - the biggest month - and only the second above 4 million tonnes since March 2017.
While I have no doubt that there is enough elevation capacity around the country to load out 42.9 million tonnes, the logistics network and mother nature will potentially let the team down.
The drenching rains across the eastern states in the past three weeks is a case in point.
On the flip side, this season's export margin environment provides an enormous incentive for marketers and exporters to find a solution to all impediments and maximise 2021-22 exports.
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