USDA increased the marketing year (MY) 2009-2010 U.S. wheat export forecast by 1.1 million metric tons mmt) in its April World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates. This puts the new export forecast at 23.5 mmt, which would be the lowest since MY 2002-2003 (23.1 mmt). The previous estimate, at 22.5 mmt, had exports pegged at their lowest level since MY 1971-1972.

USDA noted that the boost in recent grain shipments was partly responsible for the increased projection. Commercial sales data shows that the U.S. exported 5.3 mmt of wheat between Jan. 1 and March 31, growing the total volume for the year from 16.1 mmt to 21.4 mmt. The 5.3-mmt sales increase during the January to March time frame is the second highest in the past five years, following only 2007 when sales increased by 6.5 mmt.

A quicker pace of sales also applies to new-crop sales for the next marketing year (NMY). Current NMY sales total 956,300 mt, 21% greater than NMY sales this time last year. Although current NMY sales are 2% lower than the five-year average of 970,800 mt, the five-year average contains a major outlier.

In March 2008, NMY sales reached 3 mmt when global supplies were limited and other major exporters restricted sales to ensure domestic supplies. Removing this outlier, the average is 459,700 mt, well below March 2010 NMY sales.

The largest buyers of new-crop sales to date are Nigeria, the Philippines and Mexico. Nigerian NMY purchases total 316,000 mt, compared to only 12,000 mt a year ago. Hard red winter (HRW) makes up the bulk of Nigeria’s new-crop purchases at 280,000 mt. HRW sales for delivery in MY 2010/2011 currently total 368,000 mt, which is more than double from last year’s NMY sales of 158,100 mt.

The Philippines has booked 200,400 mt of exclusively soft white wheat. White wheat NMY sales, at 292,900 mt, are up 64% from last year. Mexico has bought 182,200 mt, of which 103,500 mt is soft red winter. NMY SRW sales currently total 165,700 mt. (For the full world supply and demand report, go to http://www.usda.gov/oce/commodity/wasde/.