28 February 2015 | Online since 2003

'Very severe' drought develops for US wheat


Beans fell sharply on what one observer called "negative macro economic vibes" - which is short-code for "nothing specific". That said, they did at least manage to close well off session and overnight lows with the nears having been down well over 40 cents at one point. There's some pretty widespread talk/gossip that China may be looking to wash out as many as 30 Brazilian soybean cargoes, let alone purchases from the US.

They may even be offering some of these Brazilian cargoes to the US, according to some. We will have to wait and see how much truth is in these rumours. At least one major northern Chinese port was reported to have stopped discharging beans last week as it was already full to capacity. The enormity of the speculative fund long position in soybeans was always going to leave the market vulnerable to a significant downside correction once any sell-off built up a head of steam, and not necessarily for anything more than "negative macro economics" and/or Chinese rumour reasons. In other news, Brazil's CONAB estimated the soybean crop there at 85.4 MMT, a sharp drop on the 90 MMT forecast previously. That's still a record, but a long was off some of the trade estimates around January of around 92 MMT.

Too much rain in the north, and heat and dryness in the south of the country were the reasons given. CONAB also cut their estimate for Brazilian soybean exports from 47.7 MMT to 45.3 MMT. US hog prices hit new all-time highs again this week, on thoughts that the ongoing PEDV epidemic would sharply reduce pig numbers this year, potentially cutting feed demand for meal. Trade estimates for tomorrow's weekly export sales report for beans are 350-700 TMT. Mar 14 Soybeans closed at $13.81 3/4, down 29 3/4 cents; May 14 Soybeans closed at $13.87, down 26 cents; Mar 14 Soybean Meal closed at $448.30, down $4.00; Mar 14 Soybean Oil closed at 43.20, down 31 points.


The corn market closed around 5 to 6 cents higher on further fund buying (estimated at around 9,000 contracts on the day). Spillover support from resurgent wheat was probably also a factor. The Ukraine Ag Minister said that spring grain planting in Crimea would be minimal due to a problem distributing fuel to the region. That got some excited, although Reuters reported that Crimea only accounted for 1.2% of Ukraine's 63 MMT grain crop in 2013.

It would be a problem if it started affecting a more widespread area of the country though, but for now spring plantings are off to a timely start, although what they've planted so far is only a drop in the ocean compared to the more than 8 million ha that is/was originally expected to be sown. The situation certainly wants monitoring. Ukraine's corn exports (around 480 TMT shipped last week) so far also appear to be proceeding largely unhindered, although this too wants keeping an eye on. CONAB cut their forecast for the Brazilian corn crop only relatively modestly, from 75.5 MMT to 75.2 MMT, which is still well above the USDA's 70 MMT forecast from Monday.

They are banking on a much larger "safrinha" corn crop from Brazilian growers than the USDA it would seem. Planting of that is underway now. US ethanol production for the past week was only 869,000 barrels/day, down from 894,000 bpd the week previously and well below the more than 930,000 bpd required to hit the USDA's target for the season. Israel bought 50 TMT of optional origin corn in a tender. There was some speculation that this would have normally been sourced from Ukraine, but that this consignment will now most likely come from the US due to the current tensions in the Black Sea region. Trade estimates for tomorrow's weekly USDA export sales report are around the 700 TMT to 1 MMT mark. Mar 14 Corn closed at $4.84 1/4, up 6 1/4 cents; May 14 Corn closed at $4.88 1/2, up 5 1/4 cents.


The wheat market closed sharply higher, with the exception of the extremely thin front month in Minneapolis. The North American Millers Association forecast the 2014 US soft red winter wheat crop at 437.0 million bushels, down 23% from the 564.9 million harvested in 2013. Continuing problems with rail logistics in Canada saw front month and in delivery (and therefore limitless) Mar 14 oats close almost 80 cents higher - almost four times the daily limit move, with the next two positions of May and Jul 14 closing locked in up 20 cents. This is adding spillover support to wheat, and so too is fund buying as they unwind long beans/short wheat spreads. The US and Canada remain very cold, prompting some to already discuss later than usual spring plantings, and therefore the possibility for reduced yields.

"Very severe drought has also developed in the US Southwest expanding into the Plains and damaging hard red winter wheat in the Southern Great Plains. Oklahoma and Texas have received 15-40% normal rainfall over the past 11-12 weeks, the number 2 and 3 top bread states," said Martell Crop Projections. The stand-off between Russia and Ukraine is also adding support to the market, even if it did prompt Russia's Ag Ministry to today up their 2013/14 grain export forecast by 2 MMT to 22 MMT. Morocco were said to have bought up to 400,000 MT of milling wheat from various origins, including Russia and Ukraine, last week. Israel were said to have bought 25,000 MT of feed wheat, said to be most likely of Russian/Ukraine origin too. There's some debate that some Middle Eastern buyers will shy away from booking business with Ukraine just at the moment, but others may see it as an opportunity to simply bid a little lower.

The recent price hikes that we've seen in the market aren't all being fully reflected in US cash prices, much to the disenchantment of some, it is reported. Tomorrow's weekly export sales are estimated at around 350-750 TMT. Mar 14 CBOT Wheat closed at $6.88, up 24 3/4 cents; Mar 14 KCBT Wheat closed at $7.41 1/4, up 19 1/4 cents; Mar 14 MGEX Wheat closed at $7.51, unchanged.



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