21-03-2014 03:08 AM | Arable, Cereal, Crops, Market Reports, News

Fund money flooding into wheat market since Ukraine crisis



EU grains closed a see-saw day mostly lower, with expiring tomorrow Mar 14 London wheat down GBP1.0/tonne at GBP167.35/tonne, and with new crop Nov 14 also GBP1.00/tonne lower at GBP160.50/tonne. May 14 Paris wheat closed EUR2.00/tonne weaker at EUR211.25/tonne, Jun 14 Paris corn was down EUR0.75/tonne to EUR185.75/tonne and May 14 Paris rapeseed fell EUR2.50/tonne to EUR402.75/tonne.

Fund money has been flooding into the wheat market since Russia annexed Crimea, pushing prices to fresh multi-month highs, with new crop Nov 14 London wheat hitting GBP163.80/tonne earlier today - it's best level since last June. Spec money was given credit for finishing up as net buyers of around 10,000 contracts in Chicago wheat last night, it's been a long time since they've featured to that kind of extent in one single session.

Afternoon weather forecasts on the US Plains suddenly developed a wetter look, and the wheat market quickly did a sharp about turn. Profit-taking following the recent very sharp rally is also likely to have been a feature. These are the volatile times we are in. Having either nothing bought, or nothing sold forward (depending on which side of the fence you are on) looks like an extremely risky strategy right now, and one that carries 100% exposure to markets trading erratically on whim and emotion.

French analysts Strategie Grains increased their forecast for 2013/14 EU soft wheat exports from the 24.3 MMT record estimated last month to a new all-time high of 25.6 MMT. The increase reflected strong shipments from Romania, Germany and Poland, they said. France appears to remain heavily reliant on Algeria and Tunisia for its wheat exports.

Strategies Grains also increased their 2014/15 export projection from the 21.7 MMT forecast in February to 22.4 MMT, saying that some buyers in the Middle East and North Africa would be cautious about buying from Ukraine.

On the production side of the coin they increased their forecasts for EU-28 soft wheat, barley and corn output from last month. The EU-28 soft wheat crop was raised from the 137.5 MMT forecast last month to 137.7 MMT, and a 2% increase on last year's production. The EU-28 barley crop was increased from 55.0 MMT to 55.4 MMT, although that's still a 7% drop on last year, whilst this year's corn crop was forecast at 65.2 MMT (up from 65.1 MMT last month), a 1% increase versus last year.

Crops in Europe are generally in good condition, and said to be "very good" in SE Europe. Rain is needed in central Europe and the Baltic countries, they added.

MDA CropCast raised their forecast for the Russian wheat crop this year by 1 MMT from last week to 48.3 MMT, although that's still a near 8% decline on last year. They cut Ukraine's wheat output by 0.7 MMT to 20.3 MMT, a 6.5% fall on last year. Kazakhstan's 2014/15 wheat crop meanwhile is seen 15.6% higher at 16.3 MMT.

The Ukraine Ministry said that early spring grain plantings were completed on 927,000 hectares, or 32% of plan, and around double the 477k ha that had been planted this time a year ago. The vast majority of that area is spring barley (711k ha).

APK Inform said that a survey they'd conducted revealed that around 80% of Ukraine growers expected to plant a similar spring grain area to last year and 10-20% were hoping to expand sowings. They noted that some growers were thinking of sacrificing land sown with corn last year in favour of soybeans due to price considerations.

US analysts AgResource said that they expect the world wheat crop in 2014/15 to set a new record at 713.8 MMT. They also forecast the world corn crop rising to a record 978.4 MMT versus 967.5 MMT in 2013/14.

The Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) forecast US all wheat plantings at 57 million acres this year, up from 56.2 million a year ago. They see US all wheat production rising from 2.13 billion bushels to 2.203 billion, and estimate the average wheat price in 2014/15 at $5.55/bushel, which is well below where prices currently stand for next season. They see US corn prices averaging $4.17/bushel in 2014/15, falling to $4/bushel in 2015/16. US soybean prices in 2014/15 will average $9.84/bushel versus $12.57/bushel this season, they say.

India are maintaining their "little and often" approach, with state-owned firm MMTC tendering to sell 35,000 MT of wheat for April/May shipment. India’s PEC have also tendered to sell 65,000 MT of wheat for April shipment. India's 2014 harvest is now just days away. Reports of late crop damage caused by heavy rain and hail in recent days are being played down by the Ministry who say that losses will be minimal.

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