As the world population grows so does consumption of wheat, but in the last few years there has been a leap in demand as emerging countries like China and India became wealthier and started eating more meat. It takes 16 pounds of grains to produce one pound of meat, typically a mixture of corn, soy and some wheat.
The rising popularity of clean fuels such as biodiesel and bioethanol has become another new source of demand for grains. Corn is one of the most popular raw materials for biofuels; corn and wheat compete for the same farmland and when more acreage is allocated to corn, wheat prices move higher because of shorter supplies.
Wheat prices tend to dip during harvest times and as this grain grows well in most climates this happens several times throughout the year. Some countries with intensive farming like the US or Canada manage to produce two crops per year; the US winter wheat is ready for harvest from May to July and spring wheat from August through September.
Australia is another major producer and what is not consumed at home makes its way into the Asian markets. Russia and Ukraine, the latter known as the bread basket of Europe, supply most North African countries and the Middle East. The European Union is another big producer and acts both as an importer and exporter depending on the needs of the different countries.
The US Department of Agriculture tracks how much wheat is planted both in the US and around the world and produces regular reports.
Wheat futures are traded in London, Paris and on the Chicago Board of Trade; prices moving frequently in tandem with other grains as big funds tend to invest in the whole agricultural complex rather than only one type of grain.