U.S. wheat exports will reach 31.3 million metric tons (MMT) in 2011/12, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

USDA increased its U.S. export forecast in itsJuly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) by 2.7 MMT from last month’s estimate, primarily due to reduced Canadian supplies and a projected increase in U.S. production.

While that volume would be 11 percent below 2010/11 exports, it would also be eight percent above the five-year average. USDA increased its total 2011/12 U.S. production outlook by 1.3 MMT from its June forecast to 57.3 MMT.

The culprit in Canada is the same unusually cool, wet conditions that plagued U.S. farmers in the northern plains.

USDA pegged 2011/12 Canadian wheat production at 21.5 MMT, down sharply from last month’s projected 25 MMT and well below the five-year average of 24.8 MMT.

Total estimated supplies will reach 28.1 MMT, 13 percent below the five-year average. Projected Canadian exports are 16.0 MMT or 2.5 MMT less than the June forecast.

If realized, 2011/12 Canadian wheat exports would fall by three percent from 2010/11 and reach the lowest level since 2004/05 when Canada exported 14.9 MMT.

First look at spring wheat

The July WASDE also included the first U.S. by-class production forecast for 2011/12, giving buyers their first look at spring wheat production potential.

USDA projected this year’s hard red spring (HRS) crop at 13.7 MMT, down 12 percent from last year, but on par with the five-year average. The agency projects durum production to fall sharply with estimated harvested area and yields well below last year’s level.

The estimated durum harvested area of 1.6 million acres is down 35 percent and estimated yield of 38.7 bushels per acre is down nine percent. USDA pegged overall durum production at 1.7 MMT, down 40 percent from 2010/11 to what would be the lowest level since U.S. farmers harvested 1.5 MMT in 2006/07.

USDA increased its U.S. winter wheat production outlook based on greater yield potential for hard red winter (HRW) and soft red winter (SRW) in some states.

Forecasted HRW production stands at 21.5 MMT, up two percent from last month’s projection, but down 22 percent from 27.7 MMT last year. HRW supplies will reach an estimated 32.1 MMT, down sharply from 38.2 MMT last year, but still above the five-year average of 31.5 MMT.

While HRW supplies will decline,initial quality samples show improvement in this year’s crop. The average protein level currently stands at 13 percent, up from 11.8 percent last year and the average test weight is 80.6 kg/hl (61.3 lb/bu), up from 80.2 kg/hl (61.0 lb/bu) last year.

Projected SRW production stands at 12.5 MMT, up six percent from June. Improved growing conditions increased projected yields in many states, including potential record yields in Arkansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Preliminary data indicates that test weights in this year’s SRW crop average 78.2 kg/hl (59.4 lb/bu), compared to 77 kg/hl (58.4 lb/bu) last year.

USDA also expects U.S. white wheat production to increase in 2011/12 to 7.9 MMT, up from 7.5 MMT last year. Average yield in Oregon, for example, is projected at a record 73 bushels per acre (just under 5 MT per hectare), about nine percent greater than their average last year.