29-04-2014 05:02 AM | Arable, Cereal, Crops, Market Reports, News

Ukraine tensions keeping grain markets nervous



EU grains closed mostly lower, in a quiet, low volume start to the week.

The day ended with May 14 London wheat down GBP0.20/tonne to GBP169.80/tonne, and with new crop Nov 14 London wheat closing GBP1.00/tonne lower at GBP158.75/tonne. May 14 Paris wheat closed down EUR2.25/tonne at EUR215.00/tonne, Jun 14 Paris corn was also down EUR2.25/tonne at EUR185.00/tonne, whilst May 14 Paris rapeseed corrected some of the steep losses of the latter half of last week, ending EUR6.50/tonne higher to close at EUR402.50/tonne.

Fresh fundamental news was generally lacking, although the ever present Ukraine tensions are keeping the market nervous.

The mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine, was shot and critically wounded as pro-Russian separatists continue to run amok in the east of the country. The US apparently froze the assets of, and imposed visa bans on, several powerful Russian businessmen and politicians, said to be close to President Putin. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is also warning Russia of sanctions over its failure to help stem the Ukraine crisis, saying it has ignored the steps recently agreed in Geneva to stem the unrest.

Amidst all the political gesturing though, for the time being at least, exports and spring planting appear to be continuing more or less as normal.

APK Inform said that Ukraine seaports had exported 455.5 TMT of grains last week, up 17% from the 390 TMT shipped out the previous week. That total included 284.4 TMT (up from 176.7 TMT a week previously) of corn and 148.7 TMT (versus 154.5 TMT) of wheat.

Ukraine's 2013/14 marketing year to date grain exports now stand at more than 29 MMT, versus a full season Ministry target of 33 MMT. APK Inform's 2013/14 grain export estimate of 31.1 MMT may prove to be closer to the mark. Either one would be a record, in fact 29 MMT is already an all-time high.

Early spring grain planting in Ukraine, excluding corn, is already over at 2.6 million hectares. Growers there have also sown 2.07 million ha of corn, which is 40% of plan, along with 2.64 million ha of sunflower (61%) and 350k ha of soybeans (21%), according to the Ag Ministry. Agritel said that recent rains had created good sowing conditions.

Russia's Ag Ministry said that the country had planted 4.8 million hectares of spring grains as of last Friday, which is around 15% of the intended area.

Rusagrotans said that Russia's 2014/15 grain harvest would come in somewhere between 92 MMT and 96.2 MMT, slightly lower than the Russian Ag Minister's forecast of 95-97 MMT. They said that production in the southern, Volga and Urals regions would be higher than last year, and output would be lower in the Black Earth and Siberian regions.

In Belarus, early spring grains have been planted on 1 million ha, which is 94% of plan, along with 435.6k ha of corn (55% of plan). Kazakhstan's early spring plantings meanwhile are said to be almost 39% complete.

The 15 day weather forecast for the coming period sees almost all of Europe wetter than normal, with the exception of western France, and Spain and Portugal. Eastern Europe, Ukraine and most of Russia should also see better than normal precipitation, although the GFS model sees Kazakhstan staying mostly dry.

US winter wheat in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas will continue to receive precipitation totals below normal, fuelling further yield loss ideas there. The USDA will report on US winter wheat conditions later tonight, with further deterioration on last week's 34% good/excellent seemingly likely.

We will also get to find out what the state of play is with corn planting in the US. Last week the USDA said that only 6% of the 2014 US corn crop was in the ground, versus the 5-year average of 14%. A Reuters poll puts the range of trade estimates for tonight's report at 17-28%. I'd be at the low end of that range, possibly even below it.

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