Wheat’s Jump Is About More Than Russia

Wheat’s Jump Is About More Than Russia

La Nina weather pattern causing droughts and higher prices.

Reviewed by: Heather Bell
Edited by: Heather Bell

Wheat prices’ 10% jump in the past three months is about more than Russia’s war on Ukraine disrupting grain shipments. It’s also because the little girl is back. 

La Nina, Spanish for “little girl,” has caused drought conditions around the world to intensify for the past three years and is joining with the Eastern European war to push prices higher. A rare three-years-in-a-row La Nina is hitting the U.S., the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said recently

The weather pattern “makes disruptions like [the Russian invasion] even more problematic,” Robert Minter, abrdn’s director of ETF investment strategy, told ETF.com. “We have bad production after having bad production. You never get to restore your stockpiles, so you’re starting off lower and lower as you go on.”  

Wheat’s surge slowed Wednesday, dropping more than 6% after Russia agreed to not disrupt shipping of Ukrainian grain in the Black Sea. The price had surged earlier when Russia said it would withdraw from the agreement.  

The threatened withdrawal raised concerns about inflation, supply chain disruptions and the effects of a grain shortage on lower-income countries. 

Adding to the rising prices is that U.S. winter wheat is having one of its worst starts in years, the USDA Crop Progress Report said this week. 

Russia and Ukraine, both among the world’s biggest wheat exporters, have shipped about a third of their usual volumes so far this year, Minter said. 

Commodities Looking Attractive 

The $340 million Teucrium Wheat ETF (WEAT) is up about 20% year to date compared with S&P 500 ETFs losing around 20%. The fund has also pulled in $348 million in flows during the year. The combination of drought and war may suggest further gains. 

Indeed, exposure could help to alleviate some of the effects of inflation. Food inflation, in particular, is something that affects everyone, Minter noted. 

In his opinion, investors don’t have enough exposure to commodities in general, largely because they fell back on defensive positioning due to expectations of a severe recession. He notes that there’s not enough supply with very low inventories for many commodities, both factors setting up commodities for positive returns, and that there are a number of commodities that show investors in net short positions.  

“No one is positioned for an uptick in the Chinese economy or a mild recession [rather than] a severe recession,” Minter added. “The fundamentals at some point are going to start to matter rather than the macro messages.” 


Contact Heather Bell at [email protected] 

Heather Bell is a former managing editor of etf.com. She has also held editorial positions at Dow Jones Indexes and Lehman Brothers. Bell is a graduate of Dartmouth college and resides in the Denver area with her two dogs.