Mullen ex-hooker shocker (with pics)

Mr Mullen holding one of his odd shaped balls

Former British Lions hooker, Karl Mullen, the only man to lead Ireland to their only ever shock Triple Crown & Grand Slam victory sixty years ago in 1948, pictured here (centre) with fellow surviving members of that legendary team: Michael O'Flanagan, Paddy Reid, Jack Kyle, Karl Mullen, Jim McCarthy, Bertie O'Hanlon and Jimmy Nelson.

Well done Karl.

Argentine export terminals empty by Tuesday

Lloyds List--GRAIN and oilseed shipments from Argentina's River Plate face further paralysis, writes Michelle Wiese Bockmann.

Stockpiles of some agricultural products at Argentina's export terminals will run out by Tuesday, if as expected, an ongoing farmers' strike is extended.

The River Plate region is where most of the international shipments of grain, soya and oilseeds are loaded.

The South American country's shipping chamber, Centro de Navegacion, has visited the 21 privately-operated export terminals at Rosario.

"Operators said that they will work until Tuesday with no problems, with the stocks they already have," Gustavo Hereñu of Centro de Navegacion said.

"Then will start the shortage of certain products. If the lockout continues, from next Monday it is expected that the activity will be highly affected."

Once stockpiles are depleted, agricultural trade will be paralysed. Vessels will be unable to load until farmers end highway pickets preventing produce from reaching terminals.

Ukraine grain stocks up 47%

KIEV, UKRAINE — Grain stocks in Ukraine at the beginning of May exceeded last year's stocks by 47%, the State Statistics Committee of Ukraine said Friday. As of May 1, 2008, 8.6 million tonnes of grain were stored at the Ukrainian agricultural enterprises. At the beginning of May, wheat stocks totaled 4.3 million tonnes, up 28% from May 2007.

Chicago closing comments

CBOT soy futures soared out of the starting blocks Friday, with July soybeans and November soybeans leaping to 3 and 10 week highs respectively. The extension of the Argentine farmers' strike is seen increasing demand for tight projected old crop inventories, with new crop contracts buoyed by ideas of less acreage shifting to soybeans due to more favourable corn planting outlooks, analysts say. Beans finished well off session highs but still with gains of around 30c.

U.S. wheat futures backpedaled from earlier gains amid some light profit-taking, a grain analyst said. Good crop weather around the world and expectations for a record global crop in 2008-09 are weighing on the markets, he says. "There's nothing really bullish in the market," he says."The winter wheat crop seems to be improving here" in the U.S. hotter, drier weather forecast for the Plains should help advance development of HRW wheat and the warm-up isn't seen as threatening for now, the analyst says. Wheat closed around 4c higher, around 10c off session highs.

CBOT corn futures ended lower on the day amid profit-taking and clear weather forecasts, traders and analysts said. "I don't think people wanted to come in on Monday and see a wide-open weather forecast," said one trader, explaining the profit-taking. He added that crude oil, which had fueled a rally earlier in the day, broke from its high, helping to push corn lower. July corn finished 8 cents lower at $5.91 a bushel, closing below its 50-day moving average.

Wheat: who wants it?

I don't know, you told us you were desperate for wheat so we planted loads of it & now no bugger wants it. Bugger.

As expected, last week the USDA projected a huge jump in world production and an increase in world ending stocks. World all wheat production was forecast to be 656 MMT, 50 MMT higher than last year, an increase of 8%. World ending stocks were expected to be up 13%, or 14 MMT, at 124 MMT. US production is expected to be 65 MMT (2.4 billion bushels), up 9 MMT or 16%, with ending stocks double last year at 13 MMT (483 mb).

The US will see much more export competition this coming marketing year, which starts June 1. Virtually every other major world wheat producing region has had very good weather so far this growing season. The European Union is on track to produce 140 MMT, up 21 MMT or 17% from last year. EU exports are forecast to increase 67% to 15 MMT. The Former Soviet Union, primarily the states of Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan (the Black Sea region) will increase their production 7 MMT to 99 MMT, and increase their exports by 3.5 MMT to 25 MMT. With the US slated to see a reduction in exports by 8 MMT to 26.5 MMT, it becomes a real possibility that the Black Sea region could, indeed, export more wheat this year than the US, something that was unthinkable in even the recent past.

Canada's exports also will increase by 2.5 MMT to 17 MMT from their 5 MMT increase in production of 25 MMT, and we see Australia aggressively planting wheat into much better moisture conditions than they've seen in two years. Their production will hit the pipeline in October/November.

The major buyers will be less visible as well, with India reporting record production of 76.7 MMT; government procurement is at a torrid pace, leaving the likelihood of imports almost nil, particularly after they canceled their second tender for import price call options. India actually was the catalyst for this major bull market of the last two years.

Now that India is out of the picture, we look to other potential major buyers, which appear to be few. Pakistan has announced that they will need to import 2.5 MMT rather than the 1.0 MMT they had projected initially. Other than that, it looks like it will just be the regular importers, and competition for that business will be fierce. The US does have an advantage with the weak dollar, but the dollar's future direction is certainly up for debate. And of course, it typically doesn't matter what world price is when it comes to the Black Sea sellers, who have historically been more than willing to undercut all other sellers regardless of price. I don't see any reason why that would change this year.

Cargill bust sensation

"Celebration of Hearts" by famous American sculptor David Cargill. Sensational isn't it?

Technically not exactly a bust I suppose, what would you call it a figurine, a statuette?

Not to be confused with US agricultural conglomerate Cargill who said recently that it's third-quarter profit rose 86 percent to $1.03 billion on strong growth in its commodity sourcing and finance business.

Three cheers for them.

UK trades/markets

As the harvest draws ever nearer grain prices continue to slide. With ideal growing conditions across much of Europe a bumper crop is in the offing.

Strategie Grains are sticking with their estimate of a 15% rise on the year for the European Union's soft wheat output to 128.3 million tons. But their analytical report added that the crop could still come in anywhere up to 144 million tons depending on the weather over the next 6 weeks. That would be a whopping 30% increase on 2007.

LIFFE wheat futures have fallen over £50/tonne since late February, with May down £9.50 this week alone.

Compounders are reporting cheap grain offers suddenly emerging from the woodwork and as a consequence are backing away from their buying ideas from earlier in the week.

Jun/Sep wheatfeed pellets ex South East mills traded yesterday at £115, yet today I'd have at least half a dozen sellers at the price. There's a bid in the market today at £113 reportedly, I'd like to see it! £100 here we come? I think so.

Remember all the hype around crude oil when it broke through $100/barrel, and the guy that bought it said he'd done so just because he wanted to be the first to trade it in three figures. Who's going to be the first to be able to buy wheatfeed in double figures this year? I think it might happen sooner than you think.

Spot Corby material reported done today at £117.

Buyers wanted. Buy now before it gets any lower!

Is that the wheatfeed market I can see down there?

Early call on Chicago

Corn futures are expected to open 3 to 4 higher; soybeans 9 to 15 higher; wheat 5 higher to 2 lower. Soybeans moved higher in overnight trade because the Argentine farmer strike continues. Grain prices are mostly higher on technical strength.

Leaked reports suggest EU biofuels U-turn on the cards

Leaked reports of an impending U-turn by the EU over the inclusion of 10% biofuel in road petrol and diesel by 2020 are cinculating in Brussels, bringing uncertainty to the green fuel industry and farming organisations.
The latest suggestions that the 10% figure may be scrapped, despite commitments to reduce climate change, comes on top of reports that Chancellor Alastair Darling, in his letter to fellow EU finance ministers on action to curb food price inflation, also called for an investigation into the effect that biofuel production was having on food.

And European Commission president José Manuel Barroso is also reported to have ordered a study into possible links between biofuels and the recent rapid rises in food prices.

Although an EC spokesman insisted the president was not considering changing the 10% target and might not even publish the results of his study, Mr Barroso is reported as saying: "We must have the courage to re-examine our [biofuels] objectives."

The latest concerns over the possible effect of the target on food prices are expressed in a leaked draft report by Claude Turmes, the European Parliament's lead rapporteur for the draft EU renewable energy directive and vice chairman of the Green Party in the European Parliament.

Overnight developments

Beans, corn & wheat are all a little firmer in overnight trade with beans up 10-15c in a rebound from last night's steep losses supported by the ongoing strike in Argentina.

Corn is mostly 2-4c firmer on speculation that weather-delayed planting will reduce yield potential

Wheat is around 7-8c firmer on demand prospects from Iran and Brazil. Before today however, wheat has fallen 4.1 percent this week, heading for the sixth straight weekly decline.

Informa ups US corn acreage estimate

Informa Economics on Thursday forecast this year's U.S. corn acreage at 87.2 million, above the U.S. Department of Agriculture's current outlook for 86.0 million acres.

The also estimated 2008 soybean acreage in the United States at 73.3 million, up 2 million acres from the company's previous estimate of 71.3 million. However, Informa's soy acreage number was below the U.S. Department of Agriculture's forecast for 74.8 million.

USDA Weekly Export Sales

For the period May 2-8, 2008 the USDA is reporting wheat sales totalling 564,300 MT, 120,700 MT for 07-08 and 443,600 MT for 08-09.

Corn sales are 686,500 MT, 547,200 MT for 07-08 and 139,300 MT for 08-09.

Soybeans sales were 201,400 MT, all for 07-08, soymeal sales 115,600 MT and soyoil sales 10,800 MT.

All sales are in line with trade expectations.

UK trades/markets: Pants

With LIFFE wheat running around £4 lower this morning its all gone a bit flat.

On the wheatfeed front spot pellets have been trading recently in the region £118/125 depending on location, with traders juggling their positions around on lack of production at Icklingham.

The word on the streets this morning however is that Icklingham is back on stream for next week, so this could exert some pressure on the nearby market.

Jun/Sep ex South East locations traded at £115. Yesterday's buyers turning into sellers!


Early call on Chicago

Corn futures are expected to open 2 to 6 lower; soybeans 3 to 12 lower; wheat mostly 3 to 4 lower. More technical pressure pushed prices lower in overnight trade. Improved weather conditions for all crops is expected for several days.

USDA Weekly Export Sales Estimates

The following are pre-report expectations ahead of today's USDA Export Sales Report due at 13.30BST.

Wheat 350-600,000MT

Corn 350-750,000MT

Soybeans 75-250,000MT

Soyoil 5-10,000MT

Oil falls as U.S. energy stocks rise

Oil fell after U.S. distillate inventories, including heating oil, rose above expectations and crude stocks also grew last week.

Oil hit a record of $126.98 on Tuesday, partly on a rally in the distillate market. However, prices plunged Wednesday, immediately after the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported distillate stocks, which include heating oil, increased by 1.4 million barrels, against predictions for a 750,000 barrel gain.

Elsewhere in the report, crude oil inventories in the United States rose by 200,000 barrels in the week to May 9 and gasoline stocks fell by 1.7 million barrels.

At 3:54 p.m., New York-traded West Texas Intermediate crude for June delivery was down $1.12 cents at $124.68 a barrel. In London, Brent crude for June delivery was down $1.60 at $122.50.

Milton Gay - Its Official

John Milton(1608-1674), the author of Paradise Lost, has been described as the greatest poet in the English language.

As a youth, at university, Milton was known as the 'Lady' of Christ’s College.

Milton had a loving relationship with Charles Diodati. This is recorded in the letters they wrote to each other. There are homosexual allusions in various Milton works including his elegy for Diodati, Epitaphium Damonis (1638).

John Shawcross studied Milton's relationship with his boyhood friend Charles Diodati and concluded that the relationship was homosexual. (John T. Shawcross is Professor of English at the University of Kentucky and author of Milton: The Critical Heritage.)

India 08-09 Local Wheat Buys So Far 19.06M Tons Vs 9.41MT Year Ago

India's wheat purchases on the local market have reached 19.06MMT, well above the government's original target of 15MMT, and more than double the amount it had managed to procure as at the same time last year.

This means that government-held buffer stocks are likely to hold well above required minimum levels removing the requirement to import foreign wheat for the foreseeable future an official source said.

Crude oil hovers just under record high, waits for EIA data

Crude oil is hovering just under yesterday's all-time high of $126.98 ahead of key U.S. inventory statistics, expected to show energy stocks in the world's top consumer rose last week.

New York's main WTI benchmark struck a record $126.98 per barrel on Tuesday on news Iran, the world's fourth-biggest oil producer, is mulling a cut in production by up to 1 million barrels per day. The news was refuted by Iran.

Exactly why anyone would cut back on production just as the market was at all-time highs seems beyond me, but the markets ignored that & gone up anyway.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration will release its inventory report for the week to May 9 on Wednesday at 15:30 BST.

Crude inventories will rise by 1.5 million barrels, analysts estimate, while refinery runs increased by 0.5 percentage points following last week's fall to 85.0 percent.

Gasoline stockpiles are expected to have crept up by 100,000 barrels ahead of the peak demand driving season, analysts predicted, while stocks of distillates, which include heating oil, are seen rising by 750,000 barrels.

Early call on Chicago

Corn futures are expected to open 1 to 3 lower; soybeans 5 higher to 1 1/2 lower; wheat 3 to 4 lower. Grain and oilseed futures eased again in overnight trade. There is not much new information to trade on at this time. Look for volatile trading action to continue.

Who writes this stuff? Why can't we have "soybean futures are set to go off like a ballistic missile this afternoon" or "wheat is about as popular as Pol Pot" eh?

UK trades/markets

UK compounders are reporting a (not entirely unexpected) sharp downturn in sales so far this month, with one yesterday telling me that first week May volume was almost two-thirds down on last week April.

This scenario appears pretty much the norm across the whole of the industry. Although compounders generally appear to have only fairly light coverage across the summer period, this light coverage may in fact unfortunately go much further to fulfilling their requirements than they may have hoped.

Other comments around this week such as "every second call is from a haulier looking for work" and "we haven't traded yet this week," are hardly filling the trade with enthusiasm.

Well, that last comment didn't come from me. I did trade yesterday. Spot wheatfeed meal DELIVERED at £110. OK, it was for a load that was already onboard a lorry but that was the best bid I could get.

Nearby wheatfeed pellet offers are still around the £120 mark with availability problems at Icklingham adding some support. What's going to happen once those floodgates re-open is anybodys guess. June/Sep last reported traded at £118 for SE mills, now widely offered at the price against best valuations with me of £115. Meal ex Midlands is offered at £115.

There's resale offers around on rapemeal £POA depending on location/position. Liverpool, Humber, Erith, Munich, everybody talk about pop music.

Not much in the way of resale on soya, although may have some IP hi-pro available in the north and any origin hi-pro in the south, again £POA.

Citrus, Soya Hulls, 32% Suns ex Liverpool, show me the interest.

BOE Sees Inflation Accelerating, Limiting Scope for Rate Cuts

The Bank of England has said that inflation will accelerate, breaching the government's 3 percent limit for "several quarters," making it harder for policy makers to cut interest rates as economic growth slows.

The bank said inflation will overshoot its central 2 percent target in two years if it cuts the benchmark rate to 4.5 percent in 2009 as analysts have predict.

Policy makers, led by Governor Mervyn King, are trying to shore up an economy threatened by the worst housing slump in more than a decade and surging food and oil prices. Inflation accelerated to 3 percent in April, the most in more than a year.

The rate on the December interest-rate futures contract rose about 7 basis points to 5.6 percent after the report was released.

Contaminated pig feed taken off shelves

A better headline surely would have been "Have you got lead in your (pig) pencils", I'm wasted on this trade I really am.....

An imported feed supplement for pigs has been withdrawn from sale in Australia. The supplement, imported from China contained high levels of lead.

Testing revealed pigs in six Western Australian piggeries had high levels of the metal in their systems. Those piggeries have been put into quarantine and will remain so for at least another month. Another 60 piggeries which also use the same feedstock are being closely monitored to ensure the pigs have not been affected.

The Agriculture Department's Dr Ashley Mercy says the feed supplement has been recalled and will no longer be sold in WA, but says feed manufacturers need to check what is coming into Australia.

"To make sure their quality assurance programs that they've got in place include checking the analysis that they get, and even to go to the extent of maybe they want to analyse the ingredients to make sure that it matches what it says on the certification certificate," he said.

Trials to begin on GM potatoes

What have they done wrong? I didn't even know they'd been arrested.

Poor things

China earthquake: 60,000 still missing

I could say try looking for some of them cockling on Morecambe Bay sands but I won't as that would be cruel & heartless.

The BIG picture, where does rapeseed/meal fit in?

I thought I'd do an occasional piece looking into one specific commodity in detail, whats bullish & whats bearish. For no particular reason I'm going to kick off with rapeseed, then spin off to look at the implications for meal.


The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) planting intentions report shows that American farmers plan to only plant 1.01 million acres of canola this year. That is a 15% drop from last year’s 1.183 million acres.

While they are off their peak, Canadian canola crush margins are about $13 per tonne better for July canola crushing and almost $10 per tonne more for November canola crushing than at the end of March.

Trade sources say that India is buying up to a million tonnes of palm oil in 100,000 tonnes batches each month. This is supporting world vegetable oil values. Earlier this year India waived import duties on crude palm oil and soybean oil in an effort to fight inflation.


Trade sources say that Pakistan grew a large sunflower crop this year and this will mean that they will not be in to buy canola for the remainder of the crop year.

Oil World says that Australia will plant 1.1 to 1.2 million hectares of canola this year versus 800,000 hectares last year. That should translate into a 1.4 to 1.55 million tonne Aussie canola crop versus 1.1 million tonnes last year. Australian Crop Forecasters sees the 2008-09 Aussie canola crop hitting 1.6 million tonnes.

The German farmers organization, Deutscher Raiffeisenverband is predicting that Germany will harvest about 5.8 million tonnes of rapeseed this year. That is half a million tons up on last year's 5.3mmt.

Coceral is predicting that the European Union 31 will grow almost 18 million tonnes of rapeseed this year. Last year we produced 16.0 million tonnes.

The Canadian Wheat Board is predicting that canola production there will total 10.03 million tonnes next year. That is up a hair over 15% over last year’s 8.71 million tonnes.

Figures out yesterday from CNGOIC peg China's output at 11.5 million tonnes 10.8% up compared to 9.2 million last year.

India's rapeseed output is seen unchanged at around 6.0mmt.


EU production up 2.0mmt, China up 2.3mmt, Canada up 1.3mmt and Aussie production up around 0.4mmt with India & the US pretty much unchanged. That's around 6mmt more rapeseed in the world pipeline.

With ever increasing crude & veg oil prices crush margins are pretty good, seed supply is going to be pretty good also. So why has meal gone up £20/tonne on old crop and £15/tonne on new crop in the last fortnight?

I can maybe just about see the reasoning on old crop. Downtime is looming, old crop seed stocks are dwindling, the Argy situation is keeping nearby soya tight which may have a knock-on effect for rapemeal demand. The (meal) stock IS there and it's not moving. If anyone buys into this theory then I've got resale offers to back it up if anyone wants any.

I certainly don't get the new-crop situation at all. The crushers are estimated to have only got around 25% sold - I've got the printouts here to prove it (nah, I haven't really, how on earth would I get hold of them?!), yet prices have moved up around £15/tonne.

Let me guess: "we just can't buy the seed."

That old chestnut has been around longer than Norman Wisdom. There's six million tonnes more of it waiting in the wings, whilst you've got silos full of expensively priced meal that isn't shifting being carried into a heavily discounted new-crop market just weeks away.

Am I the only one that can see this or what?

Sit tight. If you can't buy new crop rapemeal cheaper than this when the time comes then I'm Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Marks and Sparks Tuna And Pasta Bake Causes 700 Job Losses At Northern Foods

Well, I'll never eat another one again. I hate tuna anyway:

The Guardian--More than 700 workers could lose their jobs after Northern Foods abandoned its contract to make Italian ready meals for Marks & Spencer, admitting that it could not make a profit on the deal.

Northern Foods announced this morning that it plans to mothball its Fenland Foods factory in Grantham, which produces a range of chilled Italian meals for M&S.

After long-running contract discussions with M&S, Northern Foods said it was unable to reach an agreement under which it could make a profit. It now hopes to land a deal with another supermarket chain.

"We have to be prepared to have the site closed for two to three years," said chief executive Stefan Barden.

"Quite frankly, you can't keep people employed through that time period," he said.

He indicated that staff who were laid off would get preferential treatment if they applied for a job at Fenland in the future.

The Fenland Foods factory was built in 1986, when the ready meals market was in its infancy. It employs 730 people. Some staff will be offered alternative roles at other sites, but it appears likely that the majority will be laid off.

Barden denied that M&S was to blame for the closure of the factory, which accounts for about 15% of Northern Foods' business with the retail chain.

Last month the Competition Commission said an ombudsman should be created to enforce a code of conduct preventing supermarkets forcing suppliers to supply them too cheaply. Barden indicated, though, that an ombudsman would have made little difference in this case.

Quote of the Day

From Boris Johnson (who else?):

"It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving picaninnies"

Punjabi farm labourers earn just 12p/day

A study by the department of economics, Punjabi University, Patiala reveals that 68% of Punjabi farm workers earn just 10 rupees/day (that's 12 1/2p in Sterling terms). Not only that, but the poor sods can only actually find work for 10-20 days/month even at those rates.

With all that spare time on their hands is that why they're so good at cricket? Maybe they should get a cricket league organised and BP, OPEC and the big US investment funds could sponsor it? And we could all watch it on Sky or Fox TV? Or maybe they could buy a boat load of starving Punjabi farm workers & see if they could be processed into biodiesel?

Full story: Do They Know It's Just 224 Days to Christmas?

London wheat futures lowest since Nov slump

In the London feed wheat market Tuesday old crop July fell as low as GBP153.50/ton, its lowest point traded in the second-month chart since late November. July ended down GBP3 at EUR154/ton with 181 lots moved.

Volume remained lethargic following a recent string of holidays in various
European Union nations.

"It's a weather market and the new crop looks great," said a broker.

On the political front, the European Commission said it would likely extend current zero import tariffs for cereals into the new marketing year.

May LIFFE wheat chart: here

Chicago closing comments

Corn closed around 6-7c lower, although it was down considerably more at one stage. An improved weather outlook for the week ahead means that US farmers will be able to crack on a pace with plantings.

One analyst said that given completed plantings rose last week from 27% to 51% by Sunday, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, drier weather would allow growers to make more significant headway.

"If they did 24% more last week, they'll do 30% this week," he said. "They're going to catch up."

Soggy weather has been a bullish influence on corn for weeks, analysts said. Traders and analysts said that after trading mostly higher on weather for weeks, the market was in a wait-and-see mode, and some traders holding long positions were getting anxious.

By contrast beans closed around 35-40c up supported by the same old news. Argentina & crude oil. Crude hit record highs late & beans went with it for the ride. The improved weather outlook this week for the midwest is also seen as a little bearish for beans.

The trade has conveniently forgotton the massive switch back into beans this year and the fact that at some stage the Argy dispute will get resolved. Export prospects for the US won't look quite so rosy then, but hey, we can always invent a weather market!

Wheat was down around 8-9c in tandem with corn continuing its downwards slide as the northern hemisphere harvest approaches with few signs of any significant problems.

"There's very little new news for the wheat traders to look at," said Brian Hoops, president of Midwest Market Solutions. "They see corn falling, and they sell wheat along with it."

US housing crash pre-empts global Armaggedon

Daily Telegraph--The avalanche of bankruptcies has begun. Six US companies of substance have defaulted on bonds over the past fortnight, against 17 for the whole of last year.

The sick list is varied, though most for now are victims of the housing crash: Linens 'n Things, ($650m), Kimball Hill ($703m), Home Interiors ($310m), French Lick Resorts ($142m), Recycled Paper Greetings ($187m), and Tropicana Entertainment ($2.49bn).

Diane Vazza, S&P's credit chief, says defaults are rising at almost twice the rate of past downturns. "Companies are heading into this recession with a much more toxic mix. Their margin for error is razor-thin," she said.

Two-thirds have a "speculative" rating, compared to 50pc before the dotcom bust, and 40pc in the early 1990s. The culprit is debt. "They ramped it up in the last 18 months of the credit boom. A lot of deals were funded that should not have been funded," she said.

Some 174 US companies are trading at "distress levels". Spreads on their bonds have rocketed above 1,000 basis points. This does not cover the carnage among smaller firms outside the rating universe.

The California city of Vallejo (117,000 inhabitants) has just made history by opting for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, the result of tax erosion from a 26pc fall in local house prices. Half Moon Bay may be next.

"This is the tip of the iceberg: everybody is going to line up for Chapter 9 in California," said John Moorlach, Orange County board chief.

US consumers are juggling plastic to put off their day of reckoning. The Fed survey said credit card debt had jumped 6.7pc in the first quarter to $957bn, or $6,000 per working American, despite usury rates near 20pc.
"My guess is that many Americans continue to run up massive credit card debt because they have little intention of paying it off," said Peter Schiff at Euro Pacific Capital. Quite.

The bears at Société Générale are going into Siberian hibernation, issuing an "Ice Age" alert. They have slashed exposure to global equities to a minimum 30pc for the first time ever.

"Nowhere and nothing will be immune. We are on the cusp of an equity meltdown that will slash and shred portfolios," said Albert Edward, SG's global strategist.

"We see a global recession unfolding. Liquidity will drain away and crush the twin emerging market and commodity bubbles. The recent hope that 'the worst might be over' is truly staggering. Profits are disintegrating," he said.

The oil spike will burn itself out. China has hit the buffers. With inflation at 8.5pc, it risks political turmoil. Moreover, it has repeated Japan's mistakes in the 1980s, building too many factories shipping too many goods at slender margins into a crumbling export market.

Lehman Brothers' Sun Mingchun says China will tip over in the second half of this year. "With so much latent overcapacity, an export-led slowdown could trigger a chain reaction which, in the worst case, could threaten the stability of [its] financial and economic system," he said.

Britain, Europe, Japan, and China will go down before America comes back up. This is turning into a synchronised bust, after all. The Global Slump of 2008-09 is under way.

Sterling falls as house price gloom deepens

Daily Telegraph--Sterling fell against the dollar and the euro after a report showed that the housing market is in its worst state for 30 years as a record number of estate agents reported falling property prices.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said 82 per cent of estate agents in the UK had seen a drop in prices since the start of the year, with just one per cent reporting a rise.

The ratio is the worst since records began in 1978, and means that the housing slump is even more widespread than during the crash of the early 1990s.

The survey also showed the number of completed property sales "falling off a cliff" in April, in the words of one expert, because fewer properties are coming on the market and potential buyers are struggling to get mortgages.

The news drove sterling down below $1.95 and also saw it weaken against the euro.

Analysts have predicted dire consequences for the wider economy, with around 4,000 estate agents already made redundant and sales of white goods, furniture and other household items likely to drop sharply with fewer people moving home.

Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist for the RICS, said: "We have gone back through our records and the proportion of surveyors reporting a fall in property prices is the worst since we started doing a monthly survey in 1978.

"House prices are falling right across the country. Even during the house price crash of the early 1990s some parts of the country didn't take as much of a beating.

"At the same time, the number of completed sales is falling off a cliff, because people don't want to put their houses on the market while prices are falling, and people who want to buy property are struggling to get a mortgage."

London wheat futures continue slide, July down STG5 in two days

London wheat futures are continuing their recent demise with old-crop months taking the biggest hits traders say. July LIFFE feed wheat fell £2/tonne yesterday and was a further £3/tonne lower at 12 noon BST.

Recent weather has been beneficial for crop development and Friday's USDA report citing a 17% increase in EU-27 wheat production in 2008 is weighing on the market, said a UK trader.

Adds the July future has lost £54/tonne in the last two months.

July LIFFE Wheat:

Chicago early call

Corn futures are expected to open 2 to 4 lower; soybeans 5 to 10 higher; wheat 1 to 2 lower. Corn prices traded lower in overnight trade on a drier weather outlook in the Corn Belt while soybean prices were up on thoughts of fewer soybean acres. Wheat lacks direction.

NFU calls for fairer margins for poultry farmers

FWi--Shoppers want to buy British chicken, but producers need to receive a fair price to ensure they can meet the demand in the long term, according to the NFU.

As poultry producers gathered today on the first day of the British Pig and Poultry Fair at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, NFU poultry board chairman Charles Bourns said that more money needed to be passed back down the supply chain to safeguard the sector's future.

Production costs in the chicken meat sector have risen by nearly 25% (14p/kg liveweight) in the past year, but producers are not receiving enough money back to cover their costs. A survey carried out by the NFU revealed that, on average, producers are making a loss of 2.7% on every bird they produce once production costs are added in.

Mr Bourns added: A recent British Marketing Survey showed consumers are still actively seeking to buy assured British chicken, but we need to ensure enough money is passed back down the supply chain to make businesses economically viable in the long term.

Consumer tastes are changing and producers are ready and willing to produce what shoppers want to buy. But to be able to keep up with these changing demands, producers must receive enough money to ensure their businesses are sustainable.

It's a harsh reality of life that costs are rising, not just for producers, and everyone is finding it difficult. But producers cannot continue to absorb the cost of rising input prices without receiving a fairer return.

UK pig producers see little benefit from retail price hikes

Farmers Guardian--DESPITE steady retail price increases, pig producers are continuing to struggle, and are leaving the industry in droves, says BPEX chief executive Mick Sloyan.

His message came at the British Pig and Poultry Fair this morning (Tuesday, May 13), as he called on retailers to pass on the price increases to the consumer.

He said that whilst retail prices of pork and pork products was up £1 a kilo, producers have seen only a 10p rise in the price they receive.

“The basket price for pork, bacon and ham from the big four retailers which we monitor each week shows an increase of nearly £1 a kilo at a time when the price paid to producers has risen by just 10p. It makes you wonder where has the money gone?

“I believe that if retailers take a strategic view of their business and ensure sufficient money gets down the chain to pig producers to cover their costs, then everyone will benefit.

“Consumers will not need to pay much more, retailers will continue to make a profit and most important of all, we will be able to meet continuing demand of British consumers for top quality, high welfare pork, bacon, ham sausages and pies.”

The industry is continuing to struggle as feed costs soar, and many producers have scaled down or quit the industry altogether – as shown by cull sow figures running at 40 per cent above levels a year ago.

Wiseman price increase "a small step in the right direction"

A 0.5 p per litre price increase announced by Robert Wiseman Dairies today as a move in the right direction needs to be followed by other players in the milk game.

NFU Scotland says whilst the new farmgate price of 26.2 ppl is an improvement, there is little cause for celebration given that it is still below the cost of production which is closer to 29ppl.

And while Wiseman has highlighted a 40% increase in the farmgate price paid to its suppliers in the last full year, NFUS points out that the cost to a dairy farmer of producing that milk has increased by at least the same amount over the same period of time and is still increasing.

"A small number of companies, Wiseman included, have been working hard with their customers to highlight the impact that rising costs are having on their business and the businesses of those who supply them with milk," said NFUS milk committee chairman Willie Lamont.

"Others now need to step up to the plate. It is recognised that an upward move in the prices paid to its dairy farmers is required to instil confidence.

"Robert Wiseman Dairies is the first major milk processor to have announced such an increase and we need others to follow suit quickly."

Mr Lamont says against a background of increasing global and home consumption of milk and dairy products, the outlook is bright for the dairy sector.

"However there are massive short term cost pressures for farmers who are facing rocketing fuel, feed and fertiliser costs and extremely high prices for replacement cows," he says.

"These costs need to be recognised now and the Wiseman move is a small step in that direction."

Boris Johnson tells it like it is


The whimsical musings of the new Lord Mayor of London, arise Sir Boris...

"If gay marriage was OK - and I was uncertain on the issue - then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men; or indeed three men and a dog"

"I don't believe [using a mobile phone at the wheel] is necessarily any more dangerous than the many other risky things that people do with their free hands while driving - nose-picking, reading the paper, studying the A-Z, beating the children, and so on"

And finally on stag hunting:

"I remember the guts streaming, and the stag turds spilling out on to the grass from within the ventral cavity ... this hunting is best for the deer"

I'm sorry officer, I didn't know it was illegal to duct-tape the eyes of an employee and strike him with a meat hook

Reports are coming out that anywhere from 300 to 700 have been arrested at a raid of the Agriprocessors Inc., in Iowa, which is the US's largest kosher meatpacking plant.

A helicopter hovered over the scene in Postville, Iowa as the large meat packing plant, Agriprocessors, Inc, and hundreds of agents raided the plant, which is known as the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse and is northeast Iowa’s largest employer.

According to the U.S Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) website, 300 people have been arrested so far after ICE agents executed a criminal search warrant earlier today at Agriprocessors, Inc., in Postville, Iowa.

The warrant was for evidence "relating to aggravated identity theft, fraudulent use of Social Security numbers and other crimes, as well as a civil search warrant for people illegally in the United States."

USA Today is reporting that officials told aides to Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, that they expect 600 to 700 arrests out of about 1,000 to 1,050 people that work at the plant.

The DeMoines Register report that according to the affidavit, “Based on information thus far developed in the investigation, it appears, based on 2007 fourth quarter payroll reports, that approximately 76 percent of the 968 employees of Agriprocessors were using false or fraudulent social security numbers in connection with their employment.”

According to search warrants, ICE agents interviewed a former plant supervisor – identified as “Source 1” – in November 2007, who told them that the plant employed foreign nationals from Mexico, Guatemala and Eastern Europe. Roughly 80 percent of those workers were living illegally in the U.S., the supervisor said.

“Source 1” told federal agents that some employees were running a methamphetamine lab in the plant, and were bringing weapons to work. The supervisor confronted a higher-level manager about the drugs, and shortly after was fired.

The supervisors also described an encounter with the plant’s human resources manager about three separate Social Security cards from different employees with the same number. The human resources manager "laughed when this matter was brought to her attention," the supervisor told federal agents.

The article quotes different sources such as "Source 7" and "Source 11", which were all contained in the warrant which allowed for this massive raid.

Not only were the illegal activities happening on the part of the illegal aliens, but there were also reports of abuses to the workers, such as a description from "Source 7", which has worked with immigration officials on other cases, where this source told authorities that a floor supervisor duct-taped the eyes of an illegal Guatemalan employee and struck him with a meat hook.

That's not very kosher is it?

Overnight market developments

The main significant change overnight is the market's reaction to the USDA planting progress report which was released after last night's close.

Although the corn planting figure of 51% was supposedly in line with trade estimates it seems like the majority were sceptical that such a figure could have been achievable. Seeing it in black & white seems to be making a difference. Corn closed 14-15c lower last night as the market braced itself for the report and is currently a further 4-5c lower this morning.

A drier forecast for the week ahead is lending weight to ideas that further rapid progress will be unveiled in next week's report.

Whilst all this is bearish corn its bullish soybeans. The bean:corn ratio had fallen to around 1.9:1 compared to a more "normal" 2.5:1 and beans are now attempting to address the imbalance. Nov beans vs Dec corn are currently showing a price ratio of 2.05:1 based on the overnight market.

Soybeans were 11% planted according to the USDA, below trade expectations for around 17% done. Beans are up around 13-14c this morning with the ongoing Argentine difficulties also supportive.

Wheat meanwhile is on the sidelines, with little significant change last night or in the overnight session.

Meanwhile the wheat crop in Europe is largely looking pretty outstanding as a wet April has been followed by a lovely warm & sunny start to May has got the crops looking magnificent.

Below-average temperatures and some showers forecast for Spain later this week are expected to favour plants during the heading stage of production, according to forecasters at T-Storm Weather. And for northern Europe, milder temperatures and some showers are expected to return following warmer and dryer conditions over the weekend and early week.

All this is conducive to a potentially great crop just getting better.

Old crop months are beginning to slide with nearby LIFFE feed wheat down £2.25 yesterday and MATIF milling wheat down EUR6.50. I don't see any reason for this trend to change.

USDA Planting Progress Report Highlights

Monday night's USDA planting progress report showed 51% of the corn crop in the ground, in line with trade expectations, yet well below the 5-year avg of 77% done.

Soybean plantings are below expectations at 11% done vs the 5-year avg of 28% and expectations of around 16% done.

Winter wheat good/excellent is unchanged at 47%, the same as last week, but well below last year's 58% rating.

UK trades/markets

After a flurry of activity last week with sellers & consumers alike juggling their positions around, the wheatfeed market appears to have fallen into a deep, deep sleep.

With spot pellets trading around the £120 mark ex South East locations for the last couple of days of last week, buyers appear to have had their fill for now and seem generally content to sit and wait for lower levels.

There are some reports of £118 trading for slightly more out of the way locations than the typical Tilbury/Corby/Wellingborough/Peterborough range. Certainly at least one flour mill took £116 for Saturday collections. June/Sep also traded at £118 Friday, as did spot meal out of Liverpool at £120.

Other products are generally lethargic, spot soya hulls ex Liverpool a stand-off with buyers ideas at £141, sellers at £143.

On the rapemeal front the crushers have raised their aspirations around £10/tonne over the last fortnight as the seed market has risen. Consumers are pretty much saying, well if I didn't want it then, I certainly don't want it now!

Planned downtime across the tail end of old-crop months may prevent there being too much blood shed for now. August onwards will be interesting however as the I'd guess that the crushers currently have a lot less sold than normal. I personally can't see spot demand being there when the time comes. With Aug/Oct priced at a comparatively cramped discount of just £4-5 under Nov/Apr there aren't many takers out there.

I can hear the crushers now screaming "but that means were cheap for Nov/Apr!!"

No it doesn't. It means you're not as dear for Nov/Apr as you are for Aug/Oct!

Meanwhile nearby citrus pellets are about as popular as Gordon Brown.

Pass me the factor 30.

US planting progress mixed

The USDA planting progress report released after the close tonight will make interesting reading.

Meanwhile here's a cross-section of what some farmers are saying their progress is like:

5/10 - Northwest Illinois, Lee County: Finished planting tonight. Lots of corn has gone in the ground the past week. In my immediate area, about 75% corn planted. Fairly good planting conditions. A few wet spots, planted around one, but not bad for all the rain we got. Tiling pays.

5/10 - Southern Piedmont, North Carolina: Wheat looks as good as I have ever seen and corn stands are perfect over the entire county. Starting to plant soybeans now with conditions being excellent. Nice cool mornings around 60°, getting to 80° in the afternoons with soil moisture excellent at this time.

5/10 - Northeast North Dakota: Planting has been going on last 10 days for spring wheat in our area. Awoke this morning to complete white snow cover which will probably delay planting several days. Has been cold spring here with freezing temperatures everymorning and ground remains very cold. By the date it should be planting season, but by the way season looks, very early and very little growing. The grass even hardly greened up and most trees have few buds on them. Going to be interesting year if stays cold like this for very long. I wonder what we should be planting, and is this a sign of early frost? Had a year like this couple years back and had an early frost.

5/10 - North Central Iowa, Winnebago County: Too wet to be planting but we’re planting anyway. Sidewall compaction will be a major problem. Hopefully the triplestack and the ¾ rate insecticide will be enough to keep the corn upright when the straight line winds come in July. Planted in the mud last night till 1 am. Got sick of picking mud of the drive wheels. We have never planted in such wet conditions before. Done for now and will wait for better weather hopefully by next weekend. 40% done planting corn. Hopefully the remaining 60% is goes in better.

5/10 - Northwest Missouri, Clinton County: We have 15 acres of corn planted. Just being patient. Last year we didn't really get started full blast until May 18th, so you could say we are ahead.

5/10 - Southeast Illinois, Jasper County: One-half corn planted in the area, but none for me. Most went in heavy to wet ground and is now soaked in soup after three plus inches of rain.

5/10 - West Central Ohio, Miami County: Most of the corn is in the ground. Most of the bean seed is still in the bag. We've had enough rain to keep us out of the field for awhile and by the sound of the forcast more rain is on the way. The hay is growing and the sheep are happy!! Life is good.

5/9 - East Central Missouri, Montgomery County: Only token fields planted from Columbia to Mississippi River. Those will be planted over because water has been and by forecasts will have water standing until May 17th! We and all our neighbors haven't even gotten close to starting! We burned up last year. I guess the good Lord is about 10 months behind on answering prayers because we're getting rain we prayed for now!

5/9 - North Central Nebraska, Valley County: The last 10 days have been ideal for planting around here. Just a few half day or 1 day rain delays. 50% to 70% of the corn planted here, which is right on schedule for this area. Some acres of soybeans planted. Currently on rain delay through Central Nebraska, could last a couple more days as rain is forecast.

5/9 - Northeast Kansas, Brown County - Continue to recieve showers, probably 70% corn planted. Half of that can be rowed. Soybean planting just begining, no more than 15%. Friday night rain (1") will keep planters still until early next week.

Chicago early call

Corn futures are expected to open steady to 2 higher; soybeans 6 to 14 higher; wheat steady to 3 lower. Wheat futures are called slightly lower while corn and soybeans should post gains. A drier week is ahead in the Corn Belt but temperatures are a bit on the cool side.

Darling wants EU to scrap import tariffs

Chancellor Alistair Darling is to urge the European Union to tackle rising food prices by scrapping the import tariffs on agricultural commodities and abolishing the Common Agricultural Policy that keeps European agricultural prices above world market levels.

In a letter to fellow European treasury ministers before next month's European Council meetings, Mr Darling has called on the EU to play its part in reducing food inflation by extending the suspension of import tariffs on grain and reducing import tariffs that apply to other agricultural commodities. Such measures cost the EU 43bn each year and, argues Mr Darling, lead to higher prices for consumers.

With food price inflation running at 7% across the continent and the prices of commodities such as wheat rising 150% in the last two years, the Chancellor said the EU had a clear responsibility to address the consequences of spiralling food prices by tackling the causes.

"It is unacceptable that, at a time of significant food price inflation, the EU continues to apply very high import tariffs to many agricultural commodities," said Mr Darling.

He is proposing an ambitious international trade deal that will abolish the barriers and distortions in the global food market as part of an agenda to tackle the problem of rising food prices.

Included in his proposals are suggestions to abolish direct Common Agricultural Policy payments to farmers.

The controversial agricultural support scheme accounts for 32% of the entire EU budget, but has been resistant to reform for many years because of the influence of the farming industry.

Mr Darling also called for a close examination of the direct and indirect effects of EU biofuels policy, including a full assessment of its effect on food prices, now and in the future.

At 15p a litre, home-brew biodiesel is fuel of the future

I always wondered why there was such a long queue outside The Magpie in Whitby....

The Guardian are reporting an explosion in the number of people making their own biodiesel from waste veg oil. A relaxation in the law allowing individuals to make 2,500 litres a year for their own use has seen companies making biodiesel "reactors" report booming sales.

And if it ends up costing just 15p a litre it's not surprising is it?

Full story Mushy Peas With That?

Argentine Farmers Prepare to Extend Strike, Seek More Support

(Bloomberg) -- Striking Argentine farmers are seeking the support of provincial leaders and lawmakers in a protest against tax increases on grains and may prolong a disruption of agricultural exports.

The governor of Cordoba, Argentina's biggest soybean-growing region, is scheduled to meet today with the farm groups that organized the eight-day strike. Opposition-party members of Congress pledged over the weekend to work toward repealing the new export tax as farmers rallied in cities across the country.

Senator Gerardo Morales of the Radical Civic Union party called on opposition leaders to meet tomorrow to discuss how to get the tax system repealed. The group will try to get 1 million signatures on a petition supporting their effort, Morales said May 10.

A poll by Buenos Aires-based Felipe Noguera Consultores found that 78 percent of Argentines want the government to change the export tax system and 14 percent prefer that the levies remain as they are

Export-tax revenue, including duties on agricultural goods and fuels, more than doubled to 1.5 billion pesos ($472 million) in April from a year earlier, the government reported on May 5.

Full story: Argy Bargy

Pound jumps as UK producer prices surge

The pound was languishing around $1.9450 when I switched the computer on this morning. I took my eyes off the screen for literally a couple minutes & the screen was reading $1.9580.

A government report released at 9.30am revealed that UK producer prices last month climbed at the fastest annual pace since at least 1986.

Prices charged by factories increased 7.5 percent from a year earlier, the most since records began two decades ago, the Office for National Statistics said. On the month, prices increased 1.4 percent, also the fastest pace on record.

Get live forex prices & charts here

British Gas Smells

The Daily Bellylaugh reveals today that British Gas owners Centrica are suffering from being held to about 16 large loss-making energy contracts struck years ago directly with large UK industrial companies. The company previously guided that losses for these contracts would be between £100 million and £200 million this year. The recent hike in wholesale gas prices however means that losses on those contracts are now expected to be "materially higher than previous guidance."

They upped their prices 15% in January and are about to up them again. They've lost 1.8m customers since 2005 including me. I urge you to join this Nogger inspired exodus now!!

Ha, ha, ha. Not so cocky now are we British Gas??

India may procure up to 20mmt wheat on domestic market - on imports necessary

Reports out over the weekend suggest tha India has already acquired in excess of the government's target 15 mmt wheat on the domestic market and may eventually secure up to 20 mmt.

"As per information received from state governments, (India's) local wheat buys in 2008-09 are expected to reach 20 million (metric) tons, up from 11.1 million tons a year earlier, negating the need for any imports," farm minister Sharad Pawar told reporters on the sidelines of an industry event.

Procurement through May 1 was 15.4 million tons, compared with 8.2 million tons procured during the corresponding period of MY2007/08.

With carryover stocks on 1st April 2008 at 5.8mmt total wheat availability from the government could reach 25/26 million tons, which is more than adequate to meet the PDS requirement under normal conditions (12 to 14 million tons) and leave more than adequate carry over stocks for next marketing year.

The Agriculture Ministry's third advance estimate places total 2007/08 total food grain production, which includes the wheat crop just harvested, and rice, coarse grains, and pulse crops harvested last fall and this spring at a record227.3 million tons, 10 million tons above the 2006/07 level of 217.3 million tons and 8 million tons above the government's second advance estimate of 219.3 million tons released in early February.