Although January marks the start of a new calendar year, the 2011/12 wheat marketing year is just past its mid-point.

With the Northern Hemisphere’s harvest complete and the Southern Hemisphere’s nearly completed, world supply and demand are both projected at record levels.

The production and trade landscapes look different from last year as some key players returned to the market and increased global competition.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), estimated 2011/12 global wheat supplies are at a record 889 million metric tons (MMT) despite four consecutive years of record-setting consumption levels.

World wheat production is on pace to be the largest on record at 689 MMT, helping meet that growing demand.

Few changes contributed to the increase global production more than the sharp rebound in the Black Sea region. The region harvested an estimated 112 MMT this year, 38 percent more than the 81.0 MMT produced in a drought-stricken 2010/11.

Moving west on the continent, European Union (EU) production this year was larger than initially expected, adding to the global supply. An estimated harvest of 137 MMT is up 1 percent from last year and beat pre-harvest predications of 132 MMT.