EU Reports
18-12-2014 08:39 AM | EU Reports
17/12/14 -- EU grains closed mixed, but with wheat marching on to fresh highs for the move on the developing Russian situation. Paris wheat came within a whisker of EUR200/tonne, we haven't seen a front month close at that level since May.

At the finish Jan 15 London wheat was up GBP1.90/tonne at GBP135.90/tonne, Jan 15 Paris wheat jumped EUR3.75/tonne to EUR198.50/tonne, Jan 15 Paris corn was EUR2.75/tonne lower at EUR155.75/tonne, whilst Feb 15 Paris rapeseed was up EUR0.75/tonne to EUR344.75/tonne.

SovEcon said that there are "huge issues" with grain export licences in Russia at the moment, apparently confirming recent rumours.

There's more than one way to skin a cat, who needs to upset the WTO with an export ban when the same effect can ultimately be achieved via red tape?

Having loaded vessels sat around waiting for the appropriate paperwork for days/weeks on end before they can sail is a very expensive exercise indeed, and one that exporters won't want to be picking up the tab for.

Most buyers will be keen to avoid this sort of disruption too, and will soon turn to other origins that are able to ship on time.

The HGCA meanwhile said that the recent alarming slump in value of the rouble had "created a big incentive" for Russian farmers not to sell their wheat.

Holding onto physical grain was currently a far safer hedge than selling it, they added.

Whilst almost all of the talk surrounding Russia is currently about these nearby issues, there's winter kill losses and difficulty in funding the spring planting program and growers ability to fund the purchase of inputs also still to get over in 2015.

Whilst crude oil is going for a bath (somebody posted on Twitter today that a barrel of Evian water is now more expensive than a barrel of crude), along with some other markets, there's a school of thought that grains suddenly could offer the chance of better returns in 2015 than many other sectors. Prices are after all still pretty close to recent historic lows.

Some spec money might see this as a chance to get in, if not exactly on the bottom rung of the ladder then maybe still a fair way from the top.

In other news, the Ukraine Ministry of Economic Development said that the country had exported 15.19 MMT of grains in the Jul/Nov period. That total includes 7.32 MMT of wheat, 3.51 MMT of barley and 4.14 MMT of corn.

The USDA has them down to export 10.3 MMT of wheat this season, so that's 71% of that total gone already.

The same body forecasts Dec/Jul grain exports at an ambitious looking 21.5 MMT, which would take full season exports to a record in excess of 36.5 MMT.

The Ukraine Ag Ministry meanwhile estimate that winter grain plantings are up 8.8% to 8 million ha, despite the loss of Crimea and war in the east.

Russia's winter plantings are also well ahead of year ago levels, and the official Ag Ministry forecast there is still for record exports this season.

So, everything is apparently officially fine in both countries. Does anyone else get the whiff of a decomposing rodent here?

17-12-2014 09:29 AM | EU Reports
16/12/14 -- EU grains were mixed, with wheat trading higher on further Russian jitters. Paris wheat closed at its highest levels since May

The day ended with Jan 15 London wheat up GBP1.55/tonne to GBP134.00/tonne, Jan 15 Paris wheat was EUR5.00/tonne higher at EUR195.00/tonne, Jan 15 Paris corn was EUR0.25/tonne easier at EUR158.50/tonne, whilst Feb 15 Paris rapeseed ended EUR4.00/tonne lower at EUR344.00/tonne.

The Russian rouble had a wild day, even by its recent standards, hitting new all time lows against both the US dollar and euro. At one stage it had lost 50% of its value against the dollar in just six weeks.

After last week's 1% interest rate rise caused little more than a momentary ripple in the international currency markets, the Russian Central Bank decided that a bit of "shock and awe" was in order. They announced an interest rate hike from 10.5% to 17%, meaning that rates in Russia have almost doubled in a week!

Brent crude meanwhile slipped below $60/barrel for the first time since July 2009, further piling the pressure on the rouble.

Whilst Russian wheat prices are good in rouble terms, in dollar terms they're a disaster. Rapidly rising inflation meanwhile could only be serving to encourage farmers that still have grain to sell to hold onto their remaining stocks as a hedge against the demise of the domestic currency.

Russian exporters meanwhile are likely to withdraw from the market until the rouble stabilises.

There are also now reports that the Russian Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance Service (VPSS) has said that it will only issue export certificates for grain bound for Turkish, Egyptian, Armenian and Indian buyers.

That sure sounds like an export restriction to me, if true.

Bear in mind that Russia's 2015 budget is said to have been drawn up on the basis of crude oil being $100/barrel and the dollar being worth 35 roubles, when in fact it almost hit 80 today. There's now much discussion of the possibility of a Russian debt default.

All of this is also clearly likely to affect Russian growers' ability to fund their spring planting program and the purchase of inputs in 2015.

In other news, Coceral raised their estimate for the EU-28 soft wheat crop in 2014 from 147.9 MMT to 148.5 MMT. That's an 8.8% increase on last year. They also increased their corn production estimate from 72.8 MMT to 73.5 MMT, a 16.3% rise on the previous year.

For barley production they now go 60.16 MMT versus 59.38 MMT a year ago, and for OSR they are at 24.12 MMT versus 20.8 MMT in 2013.

For the UK specifically, they forecast this year's wheat crop at 16.52 MMT (11.92 MMT last year), with barley output unchanged at 7.0 MMT and OSR production at 2.51 MMT (versus 2.22 MMT a year ago).

16-12-2014 09:09 AM | EU Reports
15/12/14 -- EU grains finished the day higher, with Jan 15 London wheat up GBP2.25/tonne to GBP132.25/tonne; Jan 15 Paris wheat was EUR1.25/tonne firmer at EUR190.00/tonne; Jan 15 Paris corn rose EUR1.50/tonne to EUR158.75/tonne; Feb 15 Paris rapeseed jumped EUR5.25/tonne to EUR348.00/tonne.

In their final review of the 2013/14 season, the EU Commission's MARS unit said that "generally favourable conditions across the EU-28 have led to forecasted cereal yields that are above the five-year average, except for durum wheat and spring barley. All final cereal crop yields – except those for spring barley – were higher than forecast at the start of the season."

"The average EU-28 soft wheat yield estimate for the 2013-14 season is well above the five-year average and just above last year’s figure. Yield estimates are particularly high for most countries in the central, eastern and northern parts of the EU, such as Germany, the UK, Romania, Denmark and Poland. The yield estimate for France is closer to the five-year average and similar to last year’s result. The estimates for Spain, Slovakia, and Croatia are well below the five-year average", they said.

For barley "EU-28 yields are slightly above the average of the past five years, but below the excellent results of 2013. The season was positive in most of Europe, with the exception of Spain, which was affected by dry weather conditions in spring," they continued.

For corn "yields are at least 25 % above the five-year average in Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria.. A slightly positive campaign is expected in Spain, Poland, the Netherlands, Austria and Lithuania," they added.

"Overall beneficial conditions for rapeseed crops during this campaign resulted in an excellent season in Germany and Poland (forecast yields are among the highest in our database) and a very good season in the UK and France (forecast yields are above the five-year average)," they concluded.

Taking a look at next year's EU crop production potential, Copa Cogeca forecast EU-28 soft wheat plantings to fall 1.6% to 23.92 million ha, with average yields estimated 4.6% lower at 5.84 MT/ha. That pegs production at 139.75 MMT, a 6.2% fall compared to this year.

EU barley production in 2015 is seen 4.6% lower at 55.8 MMT, also on a combination of reduced plantings and a drop in yields. Likewise with corn output, which is estimated 5.7% lower at 68.8 MMT.

The EU-28 rapeseed crop is also estimated to see a reduced planted area and yields next year, with output pegged 6.4% lower at just over 22 MMT.

On a UK specific level, they forecast the 2015 wheat crop falling almost 14% at 14.3 MMT compared to 16.6 MMT this year. They see barley output little changed at 6.9 MMT versus 7.0 MMT this year. They forecast that UK growers to reduce their OSR area by 4% to 647k ha, but with average yields rising to 4.0 MT/ha, they predict production to increase by almost the same percentage to almost 2.6 MMT. I can see a many people shaking their heads at the notion that the UK will produce more rapeseed next year than this, but there we have it.

In the ongoing saga concerning Russia, their Ag Minister was today quoted as saying that whilst there will be no outright embargo, they are "going to change the situation with Russian grain exports through dummy offshore companies" without giving specific details of what action they intend to take.

Meanwhile the Russian Ministry said the the 2014 grain harvest was essentially now over at 110.8 MMT in bunker weight. Wheat accounts for 62.3 MMT of that, barley 21.2 MMT and corn a further 11.6 MMT.

Customs data shows that Russia exported a record 637.7 MMT of barley in October, up 26% versus September and 60% above a year previously. That takes exports for the first four months of the season to more than 1.9 MMT, which is 20% up year-on-year and also a record. Saudi Arabia took more than half that total.

APK Inform estimate Russia's 2014/15 barley exports at 4 MMT, up 48% on last year.

The same firm also forecast Ukraine's 2014/15 grain exports at a record 32.6 MMT, up 2% compared to last season. They see wheat exports at 10.8 MMT (+16.4%) and those for barley at 3.4 MMT (+37.6%). Corn shipments will however fall to 18 MMT, which is 8.8% lower than last season's record volume.

The Ukraine Ag Ministry said that winter grain emergence was now at 95%, rating 82% of what has emerged as being in good to satisfactory condition and 18% weak/thinned.

Most of the major winter cropping areas of Russia and Ukraine are currently experiencing warmer than normal temperatures, with these conditions expected to last for the next 10-14 days. That may not necessarily be such a good thing, as what snow cover there is is now melting, and could soon have totally disappeared in the most productive areas of the Ukrainian and Russian plains, say Agritel.

13-12-2014 10:39 AM | EU Reports
12/12/14 -- EU grains closed mostly higher on the day, but with relatively small gains for the week. Renewed rumours concerning the introduction of some form of Russian export restrictions, if not an outright ban itself, were supportive today.

At the finish Jan 15 London wheat was up GBP3.55/tonne at GBP130.20/tonne, Jan 15 Paris wheat jumped EUR4.50/tonne to EUR188.75/tonne, Jan 15 Paris corn was EUR2.25/tonne firmer at EUR157.25/tonne, whilst Feb 15 Paris rapeseed was up EUR0.25/tonne to EUR342.75/tonne.

For the week, that puts London wheat up GBP1.20/tonne, with Paris wheat EUR0.75/tonne firmer, corn up EUR1.50/tonne and rapeseed EUR2.50/tonne higher.

Russia's Agriculture Minister Nikolai Fedorov described the fact that the country had exported almost a third more grain so far this season than in 2013/14 as "a disturbing trend". He said that the Ministry will consider all options (except an embargo) to contain grain exports.

One option being touted is to increase the price that the government pay to purchase grain for their intervention program. Despite two bumper harvests in a row, the government hasn't been very successful in buying grain for that on the domestic market, the demise of the rouble means that better returns are available elsewhere.

Whether the government will set the intervention price high enough is debatable, so too is where are they going to find the money to pay for it. The rouble hit new lows against the US dollar and euro again today, forcing the Bank of Russia to intervene in the market (again) to try and halt the demise of the currency.

Now we have reports of the Russian State Duma drawing up a draft law that would require exporters to sell the Central Bank half of their foreign currency reserves. It isn't hard to imagine the uproar that would cause, and I think we can all guess in who's favour the exchange rate(s) would be set.

The Interfax news agency quoted Nikolai Pankov, chairman of the State Duma agrarian affairs committee, as saying that "it was necessary to more actively use the legal framework that exists for regulating prices on socially significant food items."

All interesting stuff, and a storyline that is far from over yet.

Meanwhile Reuters are carrying a report today that suggests that Ukraine exporters may default on something like 20% of around 1.1 MMT of corn sold to China, as they are unlikely to be able to ship all they have sold to the Far Eastern buyer under a special quota system that expires in February.

In other news, Brussels said that they'd issued 344 TMT of EU soft wheat export licences this past week, taking the cumulative season to date total to 13.1 MMT, which is around 5% ahead of this time a year ago.

FranceAgriMer said that the French winter wheat crop is 99% sown as of Monday, and that the 2014 corn harvest is now officially complete. Arvalis said that the French corn crop this year could reach a record 18 MMT.

FranceAgriMer said that French winter wheat crop conditions were 93% good to very good, unchanged on a week ago (although there was a 2 point shift from the former to the latter) and 13 points ahead of this time last year. Winter barley conditions are also 93% good to very good, similar to last week and up versus 81% a year ago.

12-12-2014 09:09 AM | EU Reports
11/12/14 -- EU grains were mixed, with Jan 15 London wheat ending down GBP0.95/tonne to GBP126.65/tonne, Jan 15 Paris wheat was unchanged at EUR184.25/tonne, Jan 15 Paris corn was EUR0.50/tonne easier at EUR155.00/tonne, whilst Feb 15 Paris rapeseed ended EUR3.00/tonne higher at EUR342.50/tonne.

Now that the December USDA WASDE report is out of the way, the trade has developed a distinct "holiday" feel.

Egypt's GASC bought three cargoes of wheat for Jan 11-30 shipment in a tender. Two consignments were Russian origin and the other French wheat. With freight included all were priced around the $262.50-263/tonne mark.

It was interesting to see Russian wheat feature again. One theory doing the rounds as to why this should suddenly be the case is that traders are looking to "clear the decks" ahead of any possible export ban in the new year. Another is that Russian growers are emerging as sellers again, despite rouble weakness, in order to generate some cash to pay the bills.

The Russian rouble fell to new lows against both the US dollar and euro today.

Meanwhile Morgan Stanley forecast that the pound could fall to 1.45 against the dollar in 2015. Uncertainty over next year's general election and further fiscal consolidation were the reasons given.

With the three leading UK political parties in various states of disarray, a potentially strong showing from UKIP in the polls isn't difficult to imagine, which would certainly put sterling under pressure. That potentially could be helpful to UK wheat exports in the second half of the season, and boy do we need some help.

The UK finally exported more wheat than it imported in October, for the first time since May 2012.

"The big UK wheat crop of 2014 requires a return to the export market. However, low protein levels in the domestic crop means that imports of high quality milling wheat are likely to remain a factor," said the HGCA.

"The upshot is that the UK export pace not only needs to mitigate the size of the 2014 crop but also imports, if stock accumulation and possible price issues are to be avoided at the end of the season," they added.

UK growers are certainly currently carrying a lot of inventory, judged on comments made at recent farmer meetings I have attended. It will be interesting to see how long they can continue/are willing to sit on that stock when we get into the new year.

Barns three quarters full of unsold grain don't help to pay the bills. Neither do they leave much room for the 2015 harvest once that draws nearer.

11-12-2014 08:59 AM | EU Reports
10/12/14 -- EU grains finished the day lower, with Jan 15 London wheat down GBP1.20/tonne to GBP127.60/tonne; Jan 15 Paris wheat was EUR2.25/tonne easier at EUR184.25/tonne; Jan 15 Paris corn fell EUR1.25/tonne to EUR155.50/tonne; Feb 15 Paris rapeseed ended EUR3.50/tonne weaker at EUR339.50/tonne.

France said that it had exported 1.68 MMT of soft wheat in October, a near 17% rise on a year previously. The top homes were Algeria (293 TMT) and Egypt (252 TMT).

FranceAgriMer increased their forecast for French soft wheat exports by 1% from last month to 17.28 MMT for the current season. Even so that's still 13% lower than the volume shipped out in 2013/14. Ending stocks will therefore rise almost 6% to 4.547 MMT, they predict.

They also increased their forecast for French barley exports, up 3% from last month to 6.1 MMT. That's also a 20% jump on last season. Even so, ending stocks here are also still up year-on-year, seen rising more than 25% to 1.3 MMT.

They said that this year's French grain harvest was 71 MMT, a 7% rise versus 2013. Wheat production was up 2% to 37.1 MMT, and barley output up 13% to 11.7 MMT, they said. The 2014 French corn crop finally came in at 17.3 MMT, an all time high and a 19% increase compared to 12 months ago, despite a lower planted area, they added.

The UK meanwhile had it's best wheat export month of the season so far in October, shipping out more than 218 TMT. Spain was the largest buyer, with (unusually) Algeria in second place. That takes exports for the season so far (Jul/Oct) to almost 507 TMT.

That would put us in line to export 2 MMT of wheat in 2014/15, if we continue at the same pace. Defra estimate the UK exportable surplus at 3.5 MMT this season.

Late in the day the USDA released their December world supply and demand numbers. EU wheat exports were raised by 1 MMT from last month to 29 MMT for the current season. That's still a reduction of almost 2 MMT on last season though, despite the fact that current exports are ahead of even last year's record pace.

Russia's wheat exports in 2014/15 were trimmed from 22.5 MMT to 22 MMT (although that's still a record volume), and Ukraine's were tweaked higher, up from 10 MMT to 10.3 MMT. There was also a 0.5 MMT increase for Kazakhstan to 5.8 MMT. Egypt's imports were increased from 9.5 MMT to 10 MMT.

Wheat production in Europe this season was left unchanged at 155.4 MMT, consumption was lowered 1.5 MMT to 126.5 MMT and ending stocks here were raised 0.5 MMT to just over 17 MMT.

"The EU is forecast to be the world’s largest (wheat) exporter and prices currently are the most competitive. Russia’s exports are projected at a record, while Ukraine’s exports are its second highest. Even though these countries are exporting large amounts of wheat, they are still expected to have a surplus, which will continue to pressure prices," they said.

In other news, the HGCA said that "fears around winter crop condition in parts of Russia and Ukraine look to be subsiding for now as forecasters project less harsh temperatures and greater snow cover in the coming days."

10-12-2014 08:49 AM | EU Reports
09/12/14 -- EU grains closed mostly lower, with wheat down after the Russian Deputy PM said that the subject of possible grain export restrictions hadn't even been discussed at today's cabinet meeting of government ministers.

At the finish Jan 15 London wheat was down GBP1.30/tonne at GBP128.80/tonne, Jan 15 Paris wheat fell EUR2.50/tonne to EUR186.50/tonne, Jan 15 Paris corn was EUR0.25/tonne firmer at EUR156.75/tonne, whilst Feb 15 Paris rapeseed was unchanged at EUR343.00/tonne.

The French Farm Ministry said that the country's winter wheat area was a six year high of 5.08 million hectares, up 160k ha on last year. Durum plantings are seen up almost 10% to 309k ha, although this is still an historically low area.

Winter barley plantings were also forecast at a 6 year high of 1.26 million hectares, up 14.5% versus last year.

Where's the extra area coming from? Partly winter OSR, where plantings for next year's harvest are seen falling to 1.486 million ha, although that's still only a relatively modest 1% decline on a year ago.

Rusagrotrans said that Russia had exported 2.99 MMT of grains in November, a 13% decline compared to October's 3.42 MMT. They noted a "significant slowdown" in exports towards the end of the month.

Whether this is simply down to adverse weather conditions, seasonal factors, or the much talked about new phytosanitary rules and/or delays in obtaining the necessary export certificates is unclear, but the situation merits watching.

Wheat accounted for 68.5% of November's exports, down from 72% in October. Barley's share rose to 21.3% from 18.3%, and corn's fell to 7.7% from 8%, they added.

SovEcon apparently said that they expect December's Russian grain exports to remain high due to the weakness of the rouble however.

The Ukraine Ag Ministry said that the country had exported 16.22 MMT of grains so far this season, including 7.57 MMT of wheat, 3.37 MMT of barley and 5.09 MMT of corn.

A spokesperson for Ukraine's DZI said that 2014/15 grain exports could reach 35 MMT, a 3 MMT rise compared to last season's record, although this would depend on the political, economic and world market situation, they added.

All eyes are now on the USDA who are due to release their December world supply and demand numbers tomorrow. I'll be looking for them to potentially raise 2014/15 EU-28 wheat exports from the existing 28 MMT estimate, and possibly trim US exports a little.

09-12-2014 08:19 AM | EU Reports
08/12/14 -- EU grains finished a choppy two-sided start to the week mostly higher.

At the close Jan 15 London wheat was up GBP1.10/tonne to GBP130.10/tonne, Jan 15 Paris wheat was EUR1.50/tonne higher at EUR189.00/tonne, Jan 15 Paris corn was EUR0.75/tonne firmer at EUR156.50/tonne, whilst Feb 15 Paris rapeseed ended EUR2.75/tonne higher at EUR343.00/tonne.

Fresh news was relatively scarce to start the week, with the trade already developing a holiday feel.

Strategie Grains estimated EU-28 rapeseed plantings at 6.5 million hectares, a 3% fall on last year. They also see yields dropping in 2015, down 8% to an average 3.3 MT/ha.

That would take production 10% lower next year to 21.6 MMT, they calculate. That's lower than the 22.5 MMT forecast by Informa last week, or Lanworth's 22.3 MMT estimate.

It does however tie in with thoughts of lower plantings across Europe due to farmer dissatisfaction with current prices, and also the new EU rules on neonicotnoids.

APK Inform said that grain shipments via Ukraine's seaports totalled 649.4 TMT last week, up from 534.4 TMT for the week prior. Corn accounted for 539.3 TMT of that volume, or 83%, which is similar to 85% the previous week, continuing with the recent trend towards majoring on corn. Wheat shipments were only 8% of the weekly total, down from 15% the week before.

Ukraine's Ag Ministry said that Ukraine had exported 15.85 MMT of grains between July 1-Dec 2nd, up 10% from a year ago.

The Ukraine Ag Ministry also said that 95% of winter planted crops are now emerged, and that 82% are in good to satisfactory condition and 18% week/thinned.

Russia said that it had exported 18.267 MMT of grains so far this season, a rise of 31% compared to a year ago. Wheat accounts for 80% of that volume (14.6 MMT).

Russian growers are said to be emerging as more active sellers, despite the fact that the rouble has yet to stabilise, as some need the cash to pay bills before the end of the year.

Congestion and adverse weather conditions at the leading Russian grain export port of Novorossiisk is said to be delaying some shipments from the region.

Morocco's 2014/15 grain imports are said to be up 80% on a year ago (Jun 1-Oct 31) at 2.2 MMT. That total includes 750 TMT of wheat, 220 TMT each of durum and barley and over 1 MMT of corn. The leading wheat suppliers are Ukraine (260 TMT), France (210 TMT), Russia (120 TMT) and Germany (80 TMT). Argentina (580 TMT) is the leading corn supplier, followed by Brazil (230 TMT) and the US (150 TMT).

06-12-2014 09:59 AM | EU Reports
05/12/14 -- EU grains finished the day mostly higher. Although London wheat officially closed lower on the thinly traded Jan 15 and Mar 15 (only 5 lots of each traded today), the more active May 15 ended a pound higher.

At the close Jan 15 London wheat was down GBP1.00/tonne to GBP129.00/tonne; Jan 15 Paris wheat was EUR1.75/tonne firmer at EUR188.00/tonne; Jan 15 Paris corn rose EUR1.25/tonne to EUR155.75/tonne; Feb 15 Paris rapeseed ended EUR3.50/tonne higher at EUR340.25/tonne.

At the end of a choppy week that puts Jan 15 London wheat down GBP2.80/tonne, although Jan 15 Paris wheat finished the week EUR3.75/tonne higher. Jan 15 Paris corn was up EUR3.50/tonne compared to last Friday and Feb 15 Paris rapeseed ended the week EUR3.25/tonne higher than it began it.

It's been a topsy turvy week, and one that saw nearby London wheat trade as high as GBP137.75/tonne on Tuesday (the highest for a front month since the last day of June), on speculation that Russia might be about to introduce some form of export restrictions on grains.

That idea got blown out of the water on Wednesday/Thursday, although news that at least one vessel loading wheat for Egypt has now been waiting more than 2 weeks to obtain the necessary certification from the Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance Service (VPSS) to allow it to sail, is of interest.

It was comments by them that new and stricter phytosanitary regulations could lead to a significant fall in grain exports in the year ahead that got the market all excited in the first place. Some still think that this could be a partial export embargo in all but name.

Europe's soft wheat export pace shows no sign of waning meanwhile, with Brussels issuing 729 TMT worth of export licences this past week. That takes the cumulative season to date total to 13.6 MMT, which is 1.1 MMT more than last year. You will need no reminding that last year was a record for EU wheat exports, and that most still forecast these to decline in 2014/15, with a subsequent rise in ending stocks.

The pace of EU wheat exports may well increase in the second half of the current season, just as it did in 2013/14, with reduced competition from the Black Sea countries.

Ukraine's wheat exports are already in decline, as the country now majors on corn. They've exported 15.66 MMT of grains so far this year, including 7.48 MMT of wheat, 3.37 MMT of barley and 4.62 MMT of corn. However, with corn being a later harvested crop, exports of that have only started to pick up in recent weeks. Corn accounted for 85% of all grain shipments via Ukraine seaports last week.

The state of winter crops in Russia and Ukraine remains a legitimate concern for the market too, and one that is unlikely to be able to be accurately assessed until the winter is over.

The Deputy Minister for Agriculture in Rostov, Russia's largest winter planted grain region, says that around 60% of crops in the region are in good to satisfactory condition. The rest is either rated poor (15%), or hasn't even germinated at all (almost 25%).

Lack of access to credit, rising inflation and acute local currency weakness is also an issue that growers in both Russia and Ukraine need to address when spring comes around.

Meanwhile, FranceAgriMer said that the French corn harvest is now complete, versus only 83% done this time last year. The French winter wheat crop for the 2015 harvest is 99% sown versus 94% a year ago. Crop conditions in winter wheat are rated 93% good to very good, unchanged from a week ago and up from 80% this time last year. Winter barley is also rated 93% good to very good, which is similarly unaltered from last week and up compared to 81% in late 2013.

Informa forecast the EU-28 all wheat crop to decline 8% to 143 MMT next year, down 12.4 MMT versus 2014. They currently have Russia's 2015 wheat crop also down 8% at 55 MMT, and see Ukraine's falling 12.5% to 21 MMT.

05-12-2014 09:09 AM | EU Reports
04/12/14 -- EU grains closed lower, although well off session lows. London wheat actually finished at, or close to, the highs of the day.

At the finish Jan 15 London wheat was down GBP1.90/tonne at GBP130.00/tonne, Jan 15 Paris wheat fell EUR0.75/tonne to EUR186.25/tonne, Jan 15 Paris corn was EUR1.00/tonne easier at EUR154.50/tonne, whilst Feb 15 Paris rapeseed was down EUR0.50/tonne to EUR336.75/tonne.

APK Inform said that Russian ministers didn't even discuss the possibility of imposing any kind of grain export limitations at yesterday's government meeting.

They did however apparently say that they will continue to monitor the situation in the grain markets and offer state-owned stocks onto the market if required.

The Russian government's intervention purchase program began on Sep 30, but has only managed to procure 268,495 MT of grain so far this season.

Meanwhile, other reports suggest that at least one Egypt bound vessel has been stuck at Russia's Novorossiysk port for a couple of weeks waiting for the necessary phytosanitary certificate before it can sail.

In other news, MDA CropCast cut their forecast for the world wheat crop in 2015/16 by 1.1 MMT from a week ago to 718.5 MMT, mainly due to reductions in Canada.

For Russia, they predict a wheat crop of 54.2 MMT next year, with Ukraine producing 23.4 MMT and Kazakhstan 12.8 MMT.

Reuters report of two ships loading wheat in France this week bound for South Korea and Thailand, as they search the globe for new homes. The latter is said to be the first such shipment since 2009.

Commerzbank forecast Paris wheat futures to be around EUR200/tonne in Q4 of 2015, which is EUR40/tonne more than their previous estimate, according to Agrimoney. "Strong EU export demand, the outlook of a likely lower next EU wheat harvest and a less ample global supply lead," are the reasons for the hike.

Serbia said that they'd exported a monthly record of 480 TMT of corn in November, up sharply from the 290 TMT shipped out in October.

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