In early April, following the release of the Prospective Planting Report, durum prices were showing signs of stabilizing after months of a steady decline.

“Cash bids have been holding pretty steady, so it is nice to see stable for a change. Most bids are in the $7.50 to $7.75 range,” said Erica Olson, market development and research manager for the North Dakota Wheat Commission. “These prices are, of course, well off their highs, but still looking at about a $1.50 premium to hard red spring wheat.”

That price premium is likely part of the reason we saw estimates for higher durum acres in the Prospective Plantings Report, Olson explained. USDA estimated 1.1 million durum acres for North Dakota in 2024, which is a 22 percent increase from last year. Montana’s durum acreage was higher, as well, at 850,000 acres, which is a 21 percent increase.

“A lot of that acreage is coming from the non-traditional areas, some producers switching (from) spring wheat over to durum because of that price difference,” she said. “If those increases come to fruition, it would put U.S. durum acres at 2 million. We haven’t seen that number in some time and would be the highest in about six years.”

Canadian durum acreage is forecasted higher, as well. According to Canadian estimates, they’re expecting to plant 6.3 million acres to durum, which would be the highest acreage in 24 years.

“Obviously, those acreage increases point to likely a rebound in North American durum production, but as we’ve seen in recent years, weather has been a challenge, and with conditions still being somewhat dry in a lot of those areas, and planting hasn’t even started, you just never know,” she said.

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It’s also important to note that ending stocks levels almost everywhere are historically low, according to Olson, pointing out that the Canadian durum stocks number is estimated to be the lowest in over 30 years., and U.S. stocks, although not quite that low, are definitely well below average, especially over the past four years.

“The March 1 stocks report for the U.S. did show stocks up slightly from last year, but only 2 percent higher, so not a huge increase. We’re looking at 36 million bushels (MB) of stocks on-hand as of March 1,” she said.

USDA has pegged the U.S. durum stock level at 21 MB by the end of the marketing year on May 31, which would be quite low.

“But given the March 1 stocks number, I don’t know that we’re going to go through 15 million bushels of durum in that timeframe. But you never know,” she said.

Even with those low stock numbers around the world, and prices obviously not holding up due to the supplies that Turkey has pushed out this year, Olson noted there some concerning crop conditions in Europe, specifically France, where their condition ratings continue to decline, so production could be lower there this year. And North Africa, in particular Morocco, has had some very dry conditions, although there were some recent rains, so they could see reduced production there and possibly some higher imports, as well.

Domestic demand has remained the same as it’s been for the past few months with mills buying pretty much only as needed until some of these new crops come to market.

“The desert durum here in the U.S., and also the Mexican durum, will be harvested in a couple months and bring some new supplies to the market,” she said. “On the export side, things have been very quiet. We did see a couple small U.S. sales to Venezuela and Argentina, but we are still up over 30 percent from a year ago. But it’s been slow going in recent months.”

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