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Wheat Futures Historical Price Charts From 1960 to 2001

Wheat commodity prices are a global wide concern, and wheat futures historical prices have a direct correlation to world events that can affect demand and supply.

It is not a coincidence that bread has been called, “The Staff of Life.” Around the planet Earth, wheat and wheat products likely feed more people than any other food crop.

Different Types of Wheat Grown

There are six (6) classes of wheat grown in the United States, although the two (2) primary categories (Winter and Spring wheat, which refer to their respective planting seasons) broadly cover most strains also grown internationally.

Wheat Futures Contracts With High Liquidity

Soft Red Winter Wheat (Chicago Board of Trade), Hard Red Winter Wheat (Kansas City Board of Trade), and Hard Red Spring Wheat (Minneapolis Board of Trade) are the three (3) main types of Wheat with active, liquid futures contracts trading in the USA.

Soft Red Winter Wheat Futures Contracts

The most actively traded Wheat futures contract is Soft Red Winter, which is traded on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT). Soft Red Winter Wheat can be found primarily east of the Mississippi, in the middle Texas heartland, the Northeast Great Lakes and east to the Atlantic. Soft Red Wheat is cultivated in more humid conditions that will not accommodate hard grain production.

It is high yielding, but relatively low in protein content. Soft Red Winter Wheat flour is used to make snack foods, crackers, cookies, pastries and cake varieties. Largest export markets for Soft Red Winter Wheat are China, Egypt and Morocco.

Hard Red Winter Wheat Futures Contracts

Hard Red Winter Wheat, or Kansas City Board of Trade Wheat, is the predominant American wheat crop. Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and the Texas panhandle are the main states where Hard Red Winter Wheat is harvested. Cold, sub zero winters and the general lack of rain make these regions of the country ideal for Hard Red Winter Wheat production.

With a wide range of protein content, good milling and baking properties, it is used to produce bread, rolls and all-purpose flour. Major buyers include Russia, China, Japan, Morocco and Poland.

“Winter wheat accounts for roughly 70-80% of US domestic production.”

Hard Red Spring Wheat Futures Contracts

Hard Red Spring Wheat (Minneapolis Board of Trade) is cultivated in Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, and Idaho, where the winters are too harsh for Winter Wheat production. The region’s dry, hot summers and fertile soil make it inviting for this type of wheat. This high grade Wheat, with superior levels of protein content, is suitable for milling, and used primarily in breads.

It is exported largely to Central America, Japan, the Philippines and Russia.

Wheat Futures Historical Prices Charts

When looking at a wheat futures historical prices chart, it is easy to see when historical wheat futures prices track major global events that are influenced by war, famine, weather conditions, and political – industrial decisions. The ramifications of these events can affect agriculturally viable land, labor, and demand – supply ratios.

Wheat Price Spiked During World Wars

During the onset and duration of World War I and II, the price per bushel of wheat rose as European farmland was destroyed, vast numbers of workers were conscripted, with many dying, and the increased concentration of people migrating to cities for safety.

In fact, the rising prices of wheat commodities from the beginning of World War II followed some historic price lows that resulted from the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the unemployment beleaguered Depression of the 1930’s.

Wheat Price Spiked In Shortage

1897 marked the first time that wheat commodity prices reached $1.00 per bushel. The spike was due to a shortage in Europe and India, which now account for roughly one third of global wheat production and consumption. Politically related rules and restrictions have dramatically affected wheat production in other parts of the world, such as in the former Soviet Union and in China.

Even the United States is not immune to political forces dramatically changing supplies of wheat.

Wheat Price Spiked On Bio Fuels Production

The Green Lobby’s advocacy of bio fuels and ethanol production has changed the ratio of wheat planted versus corn. Federal subsidies over the last ten to fifteen years have increased the acreage allocated for corn by 18%, while wheat planting acreage was reduced, even though consumption rose by 7%.

This combination of reduced production and increased demand began depleting global stock piles of wheat, reaching a panic point in 2008 when the price for a bushel of wheat reached $9.00 from just $3.95 in 2007. The pain was shared around the planet, with noodle prices rising in China, pasta prices elevated in Italy, and pastry and cupcake price hikes being instituted by US industrial baked goods producers, such as Hostess and Sara Lee.

The prices reached a current record high of $13.00 per bushel before backing off to more sustainable levels.

World’s Greatest Wheat Producers Is Not United States

Although the US wheat futures commodity markets are followed universally, the US is not even the world’s largest wheat producer. That distinction belongs to China and the EU , followed by India and then the United States, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. China is also the world’s largest consumer of wheat, as well.

Unlike the expected Chinese food staple, rice, wheat is harvested in 30 of China’s 31 provinces, and scientific research into developing new and heartier strains of wheat for higher yields without sacrificing nutritional value has been ongoing since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949.

It will be interesting to see if China uses wheat exports in the future in addition to capital to help them leverage other resources from emerging market nations.

Volatility Of Wheat Commodities Prices

In summary, the volatility of wheat commodities prices is inextricably tied to global events and trends that affect life around the globe either directly or indirectly through the often unexpected ramifications and after effects of those events.

Standard Soft Red Winter Wheat Contract
Symbol   ZW
Per Contract Size   5,000 bushels
Price Quotation   Cents per bushel
Minimum Price Fluctuation   1/4 of one cent per bushel ($12.50 per contract)
Termination of Trading   Trading terminates on the business day prior to the 15th calendar day of the contract month
Mini Soft Red Winter Wheat Contract
Symbol   XW
Per Contract Size   1,000 bushels
Price Quotation   Cents per bushel
Minimum Price Fluctuation   1/8 cent per bushel ($1.25 per contract)
Termination of Trading   Trading terminates on the business day prior to the 15th calendar day of the contract month

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