The EU's top four rapeseed producing countries France, Germany, Poland and the UK account for more than 75% of the region's entire output.
All four country's have seen winter rapeseed emerge from dormancy against a background of drier and warmer than normal spring conditions. Since the start of April temperatures have been have been as much as 15ºF above normal, especially across Germany, say StormX.
Many parts have also been drier than normal, with the UK, for once, one of the driest:
Over the next 7 days, there is the potential for around a inch of rain in the major rapeseed areas of northeastern France and southeastern Germany. However, Britain, most of Poland and the rest of France and Germany should see much lower amounts, they forecast.
I think it's pretty fair to say that nobody really foresaw the magnitude of the current economic crisis coming. Certainly some people saw a recession coming, I remember discussing it's potential arrival with Graham Milton in one alcohol-fuelled pool-shooting session round at his house maybe 12 months or more ago. But even we didn't things would get this bad.
Twelve months doesn't really seem like a long time does it? But how things looked different just one year ago. The wheat market had just about topped, but corn, soybeans & crude were still a couple of months off their highs yet.
Which got me thinking: I wonder where we will be twelve months from now? A difficult question to answer, nobody knows, we can only hazard a guess. An appropriate time therefore to dig out Nogger's crystal gonad.
What we can say for sure is that printing money on a large scale, or QE as we now call it, causes inflation. That's something you can put your money on, because that my friends is a certainty. The only thing we don't know is when it will start to happen.
That's the first piece of the jigsaw in place, lets have a look at some of the others.
As soon as the crunch hit, prices fell out of bed, farmers scaled back on their plantings for 2009. Not only that but they also started cost saving by reducing inputs, the full impact of that combination is yet to be felt. Given anything other than absolutely ideal growing conditions reduced yields are highly likely. That's piece No 2.
Lets have a look at Argentina, the next major world producer to start planting. They brought in their smallest wheat crop since 1982 at the end of last year. The drought that ravaged that harvest is still ongoing, that's why the USDA cut 4MMT off their soybean crop estimate just before Easter. That estimate of 39MMT is already starting to look "toppy" with the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange and Oil World now citing lower numbers.
Meanwhile, Argy farmers will shortly begin planting this season's wheat crop. Against a backdrop of parched soils, lack of credit and anti-government hostility, plantings are being called 10% lower than last season. And last season's sowings were the smallest since 1992. In a knock on effect from the poor harvest of 2008 Argy farmers have less money for seed or fertiliser, and can't get credit from the banks.
This combination of lower plantings and reduced inputs is a potentially lethal cocktail for global production in 2009 and beyond. That's a few more pieces in place, can you tell what it is yet?
A quick glance down the current wheat futures price tables makes for interesting reading. London wheat for Nov09 offers a GBP10.50 premium over May09, and Nov10 pays GBP6 over Nov09.
CBOT wheat for Dec09 pays a 51 3/4 cents premium over May09, and Dec10 pays a further 58 1/2 cents over Dec09.
As I've mentioned on here before all this is screaming don't sell unless you have to. With interest rates at an effective zero, and the spectre of raging inflation lurking somewhere over the horizon, sitting on wheat is better than having money in the bank if you have the storage. And with a decent monthly increment to be had it's a relatively no-risk strategy to boot.
You can look at my wheat, but you can't have it. The newspapers will call it hoarding when the time comes, they like to use emotive words like that. I'd prefer to use the term QT - quantitative teasing.
May corn finished at $3.76 ¼, down 9 ½ cents. Improved US weather conditions over the next couple of weeks are expected to move corn plantings on at a pace. News that the US will introduce tougher penalties over CO2 emissions may be supportive for corn in the long run, but it isn't going to happen tomorrow. Obama is famously pro fuel from renewable sources. An increase in the ethanol mandate to around 12-13% seems likely, but it may not happen until 2010.
May soybeans closed at $10.51, down 7 ½ cents. Still it hasn't been a bad week for beans hitting three month highs and pushing higher every other day this week, so I guess some pre-weekend profit-taking was in order. The Argy crop keeps getting resized lower. China keep buying, with private exporters reporting export sales of 275,000 MT sales to unknown destinations Friday. In the week ended April 9, exporters sold 808,300 tons for delivery before Aug. 31, double the prior four-week average.
May CBOT wheat closed at $5.23, down 1 ¾ cents. Improved weather conditions over the next couple of weeks should help revive ailing winter wheat conditions in the US. Spring plantings in the Dakotas however will need a bit more divine intervention than that. Elsewhere in the world the winter wheat crop is emerging from dormancy in largely decent condition, although spring plantings are well behind schedule in Russia and Ukraine.
EU wheat futures edged higher Friday with Paris May milling wheat closing up EUR2.25 at EUR139.00/tonne and London May feed wheat ending up GBP1.25 at GBP107.50/tonne.
It was another relatively quiet session with many participants still away for Easter or sitting on their hands.
A firmer dollar was largely responsible for prices nudging into positive territory, coupled with the news that the US bought 160,000 MT of Danish wheat earlier in the week.
Although the EU has a record large crop, wheat export licences 42 weeks into the marketing year are running 150% up on year ago levels at 17.46 MMT compared to 6.87 MMT at the same point in 2008.
Adverse weather conditions are slowing spring grains plantings in Russia and the FSU. Russia has sown only around a third of what it had planted a year ago, whilst in Ukraine spring sowings are also well behind.
Warmer and drier weather in the US may improve wheat crop prospects however.
As reported earlier last week grain and oilseed production in Ukraine is seen sharply lower in 2009/10 due to a combination of adverse weather conditions, reduced inputs and lower seed quality.
UkrAgroConsult forecasts Ukraine to harvest 19.1 MMT of wheat in 2009/10, 21% lower than last season, whilst corn output is seen down even more sharply (-24%) at 7.6 MMT.
A sharp drop in the winter rapeseed crop, which comprises the vast majority of the country's production, will see output 10-20% lower in the coming season, analysts say.
Meanwhile adverse weather conditions and lack of credit see spring grain plantings down by more than half of year ago levels.
EU wheat futures closed slightly higher Thursday as some surprise business was announced in favour of EU grain.
Paris May milling wheat closed up EUR1.00 at EUR136.75/tonne, London May feed wheat closed up GBP0.25 at GBP106.25/tonne.
Egypt announced the purchase of 60,000mt of French wheat, although they did also buy 115,000mt of Russian wheat.
A surprise package was the US buying 160,000 MT of Danish feed wheat.
May corn closed at $3.85 3/4, up 1 1/4 cents. Cold and wet weather in the US seems set to put corn plantings behind schedule. Apart from that there is little bullish news in them market for corn. Weekly exports were pretty good at over 1 MMT, but the underlying support for corn is in the ethanol mandate, trade ideas are that this will continue to support corn demand for the foreseeable future.
May soybeans closed at $10.58 ½, up 23 ½ cents. Prices pushed to 3 month highs as concerns over the size of the Argy crop grows, along wit continued Chinese buying of already tight US stocks. The Argy crop continues to shrink, with the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange trimming it's estimate to 37 MMt yesterday.
May CBOT wheat closed at $5.24 ¾, up 9 ½ cents. Weekly export sales were disappointing. US weather remains a concern as the assessment of the recent heavy freeze in the Southern Plains is still appraised.
The pound pushed through the USD1.50 mark for the first time since Jan 12th, hitting as high as USD1.5067, on ideas that the UK economy will shrink less than the U.S. and Europe this year.
Although figures just released show that retail sales fell in March, analysts are quick to point out that Easter fell early last year, boosting March 2008 figures.
A report from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said yesterday that the slump in house prices eased in March. That might not seem like a particularly wonderful piece of news, but for a currency which was second only to the South African rand in 2008 as the worst performing major currency, even that is being seized upon as positive.
With the UK first off the block on quantitative easing, some are willing to bet that Britain may emerge in the lead out of the gloomy tunnel of recession. With Gordon Brown at the helm what could possibly go wrong?
As Argentine farmers take their minds off their dispute with the government to get stuck into the harvest, final output continues to shrink.
Disappointing yields are being reported from many regions with 45% of the soybean crop and 59% of the corn crop now harvested.
Early and late season drought, lower agrochemical use, pests and heat stress have all combined to give farmers dismal yields.
The Buenos Aires Grain Exchange yesterday cut it's forecast for the current season's soybean crop to 37 MMT, the lowest output in five years, with yields averaging just 2.2 MT/hectare.
They estimate the corn crop at 13.5 MMT, similar to the USDA and Agricultural Secretariat.
Final production of both crops could still be lower yet they warn as hot & dry weather could lead to further reductions. Some field are likely to be abandoned completely or given over to grazing as their yield and quality potential is so poor, they say.
May corn closed at $3.84 ½, down 9 ¾ cents. Talk of improved weather forecasts should allow corn planting to pick up as the month of April wears on. Export sales estimates for tomorrow’s report range from 800,000 to 950,000 MT. The EIA (Energy Information Administration) forecast that this summer’s US driving season to be very different from last year as high unemployment will curb consumer spending for unnecessary driving.
May soybeans ended at $10.35, down 1 cent after an early run up to new 2-1/2 month highs failed to follow through. Trade estimates for USDA weekly sales report range between 500,000 and 900,000 tonnes for soybeans. Whilst China remains a strong buyer of US beans, old crop carryout will just get tighter and tighter. Until they switch whole-heartedly to South America then we can expect nearby beans to remain tight.
May CBOT wheat closed at $5.15 ¼, down 7 cents. Better weather conditions expected for crops over the next 6 to10 and 8 to 14 days pressured wheat lower. USDA weekly sales report for wheat ranges between 300,000 and 400,000 tonnes.
EU wheat futures continued to drift lower Wednesday against the usual backdrop of sluggish demand.
May Paris milling wheat ended down EUR0.25 at EUR135.75/tonne, and London May feed wheat closed down GBP1.00 at GBP106.00/tonne.
Traders continue to talk about slack export demand, yet the HGCA say that UK exports are running at 2.6 MMT in the current marketing year, double year ago levels.
It seems evident that UK wheat is still managing to find export homes at a price, and for the quality that we have. As mentioned previously here, plenty of wheat seems to be leaving our shores "off the radar" without ever getting a mention from the usual sources.
But no, if the usual suspects can be relied upon, then harvest pressure is going to enter the market anytime soon.
Interestingly there are unconfirmed reports that the US has bought 160,000 MT of EU feed wheat. I wonder if the Frontier lads have been active again?
UkrAgroConsult forecasts Ukraine to harvest 19.1 mln t of wheat in 2009/10, unchanged from its previous forecast and 21% lower than the 24.2 mln t harvested in 2008/09.
Corn production is projected at 7.6 mln t, also unchanged from last month and 24% down on last year's 10.0 mln t.
Barley production is expected at 10.5 mln t, up 0.5 mln t from last month but still 14.6% down on last year's 12.3 mln t.
Rapeseed production should total 2.6 mln t, the same as last month's estimate, 10.3% down on last year's 2.9 mln t.
Sunseed output is seen at 5.7 mln t, 0.2 mln t down on last month and 12.3% down on last year's 6.5 mln t.
That gives us a total production for the main five grains and oilseeds of 45.5 mln t, 19% down on last year's 56.2 mln t.
EU wheat futures closed flat to slightly lower Tuesday with May Paris milling wheat ending unchanged at EUR136.00/tonne and May London feed wheat closing down GBP1.00 at GBP107.00/tonne.
There is once again very little fresh news in the market, old crop stocks are seemingly plentiful and little winter damage seems to have occurred across most of Europe.
Still, farmers remain reluctant sellers at current levels, although end users believe that farmers will be forced to come to market at some point before new-crop arrives in July/August, due to lack of storage.
Farmers meanwhile believe that increased demand, and lower production levels in 2009/10, will mean that consumers will have to cough up if they want wheat.
I'd rather side with the farmers on this one. Judged on my early season observations in the north of the country wheat crops look very "patchy" so far. In addition I don't subscribe to the belief that old-crop carryover will be as large as official projections say.
Anecdotal reports from Argentina suggest that the early season drought and lack of inputs from cash-strapped farmers have had an adverse affect on yields this season.
The soybean crop is said to be around 35% harvested, with crops in many areas suffering from low yields and poor quality. Harvested pace is well ahead of a year ago levels of 22% which is indicative of how much of a problem dryness has been. The recent wheat crop was brought in well ahead of schedule, but almost 50% down, due to persistent drought.
Most analysts now think that the national soybean crop will do well to make 40 MMT, down from early season hopes of 50 MMT. The USDA last week lopped 4 MMT of their production estimate, dropping to 39 MMT. That would represent a drop of 15.5% on last year's production of 46.2 MMT.
Still, controversy continues to surround a secretive government who "pulled" their most recent crop estimate of 37-39 MMT without giving much explanation, apart from the fact that the report "contained errors".
Some media reports in Argentina are suggesting that final output could in fact be nearer to 35 MMT, but that the Kirchner administration is deliberately suppressing such news.
The corn harvest is also running well ahead of last year, also due to persistent dryness, with 44% of the crop done, 11 points ahead of last year. Low fertiliser usage has cut yields sharply in some areas, analysts report. Final production is estimated around 13 MMT, some 36% down on 2008.
Meanwhile the sunflower harvest is just about wrapped up and is estimated to produced just 2.45 MMT by the Agricultural Secretariat, 47% down on last year's crop of 4.65 MMT.
Meanwhile the entire Grain Belt from Córdoba to Buenos Aires remains critically dry, say StormX. It has been 10 days since the last measurable rainfall for much of the region. Furthermore, before the early April rains, a dry stretch lasting more than three weeks dominated the month of March. Over the next 7 days, there are no signs of rain outside of an isolated shower during the upcoming weekend, they add. This spells serious trouble for the Argentina soybeans, which continue to experience premature ripening, thereby reducing production numbers, they conclude.
We have to ask ourselves what would the situation be like if we hadn't have had February's "drought busting" rains?
And things aren't much better in southern Brazil, warn StormX. In the southern states of Parana and Rio Grande do Sul, dry conditions have gripped the area since early to mid-March, they say. The combination of drought-like conditions with above normal temperatures is threatening soybean production in the region. While over 75% of soybeans have been harvested in Parana, Rio Grande do Sul is only at 25%. The latest USDA soybean production forecast left Brazil unchanged at 57 million metric tons, but that number may be reduced as another week of extreme dryness is in store for the nation’s second and third largest soybean producers, they say.
That ties in with other reports I have been reading, suggesting that poor yields in the south will ultimately trim 2-3 MMT off current official estimates.
May corn closed at $3.94 ¼, up 6 ¾ cents as the USDA confirmed that just 2% of the crop has been planted so far. April weather has so far been cold and wet across much of the Midwest, giving rise to ideas that corn acres will ultimately be reduced from last week's suggestions from the USDA. Gains were capped as crude oil fell after a report showed that retail sales in the U.S unexpectedly declined in March.
May soybeans closed at 2 ½ month highs of $10.36, up 14 ½ cents. Old crop strength remains, buoyed by the continues presence of China in the market for US beans, coupled with tight 2008/09 ending stocks. It seems pretty clear that current projections from the USDA of 165 million bushels carryout are too high given China's current appetite for US beans. Meanwhile, reports from Argentina appear to indicate that their crop currently being harvested may come in under the 40 million tonne mark.
May CBOT wheat at $5.22 ¼, down 1 cent. Damage from last week's freeze is still being assessed but early indications are that Oklahoma and Texas came off worst, with Kansas escaping relatively unscathed thanks to the fact that crops there were behind in terms of development compared to these other states. Freeze damage has been rated at 51% with no damage, 35% with light damage, 11% with moderate damage and 3% severe freeze damage in Kansas. In Oklahoma moderate to severe freeze damage may be more like 30-40% sources say.
Cargill report that third-quarter earnings in the period ended Feb. 28 fell 68% to $326 million from $1.03 billion in the same period a year ago.
Nobody at Cargill was available to comment on unconfirmed rumours that the reduced profits were directly linked to sharply lower UK canteen takings after one employee (who I can only refer to as Mr M for legal reasons) went on a crash diet in early 2008.
Mr M was reputedly eating "five pallets of biscuits and other confectionery items a day," said a well-known Liverpool haulage contractor.
"Cream puffs, chocolate fingers, nothing was sacred, he was insatiable," he added.
The overnight grains closed higher, with soybeans again leading the way, supported by firmer equities and crude oil and a weaker dollar.
Beans closed around 8-10 cents firmer, with wheat and corn posting just nominal gains of a cent of so.
Old crop beans are in the driving seat as US stocks remain tight and China continues to buy, wisely shunning Argentina in the wake of the everlasting dispute between the government & farmers.
Export inspections data from the USDA for beans show up 11% ahead of last year, and more than half of last weeks exports heading for China.
Taiwan purchased 106,000 tonnes of Brazil soybeans overnight. Iraq are tendering for at least 50,000 tonnes of wheat this week and Japan are in for 61,000 tonnes.
Cold & wet conditions in the Midwest are supportive for corn.
After the close last night the USDA upped the percentage of the winter wheat crop rated poor/very poor by three points to 25%. In addition they also showed spring plantings well behind normal.
Goldman Sachs reporting $1.66 billion in profits for the first quarter may help to reassure the markets that the worst is over for the banking sector.
Early call for this afternoon's CBOT session: Corn futures are expected to open steady to 1 higher; soybeans 7 to 9 higher; wheat, steady to 2 higher.
The only variety of maize approved by the EU for commercial growing and usage within Europe has been banned by Germany.
The Monsanto variety, MON810, cannot now be sown in Germany said the country's Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner.
Aigner told reporters that "there is a justifiable reason to believe that genetically modified maize of the type MON 810 presents a danger to the environment."
Although she was at pains to point out that this was not a decision against all GMO crops per se, environmentalist groups are seeing the move as a major victory.
DWW Woolworth GmbH & Co., has filed for insolvency at a Frankfurt court according to media reports.
The company, founded by US retailer F W Woolworth in 1926, went on to enjoy great success invading Poland and most of Europe selling everything from the ever popular joke Hitler moustaches, My Other Tank Is A Sherman T-Shirts to Replica 1966 World Cup Losers Medals.
Company spokesman M Bormann said that he didn't want to file for insolvency, but he was only obeying orders.
Progressive UK dairy business Milk Link has struck a deal with leading Chinese dairy company Yili to supply Stilton & Cheddar to the Chinese market.
As part of the deal, Milk Link’s award winning Stilton and Cheddar will be available in major supermarket chains and leading hotels located in major cities across China.
The first shipment of cheese arrived in China this month and regular shipments are scheduled to supply the country’s rapidly growing supermarket chains. The market for cheese in China is seeing strong growth and Yili – which is already one of China’s largest dairy companies – is focused on becoming the market leader in this sector. Yili is already at the forefront of supplying dairy products through its yoghurt, long life milk, milk powder and ice cream businesses.
Going back ten years to 1999/2000 Brazil produced 83 million tonnes of grains and oilseeds, compared to the 65 million tonnes produced by Argentina, giving us a Brazil:Argentina crop ratio of under 1.3:1.
By 2006/07 this had increased to 1.4:1, and in the coming season it looks set to reach more than 1.9:1 if current forecasts hold (Brazil with 135 million tonnes vs Argentina's 70 million tonnes).
Meanwhile Brazil's share of global grain & oilseed production has increased to around 5.5% this year. And all that has been done despite Brazil being slower to embrace GM crops than it's neighbour.
Argentine farmers point out that the development of Brazilian agriculture is not so soy-dependent to the extreme reached in Argentina, on the contrary Brazil has also promoted dairy and beef farming.
In the nineties Brazil had 2% of world beef exports, that has now jumped to 12.3%, while Argentina remains static at 2%.
And whilst Brazil has set itself the ambitious target of producing 300 million tonnes of grains & oilseeds ten years from now, Argentina's disgruntled farmers remain embroiled in the ongoing conflict with the Kirchner administration over export taxes.
Nervous Australian farmers are watching for signs of rain before beginning to plant winter crops such as wheat and canola after a dry week across much of the country.
High pressure is dominating the country at the moment, offering little chance for more than 10mm rains in all but a few isolate areas, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
The nation’s weather may be drier than average for the next three months in some south-eastern farming regions, they warned.
There was no rain at all in South Australia or Western Australia last week, and only some isolated precipitation of less than 5 millimeters in parts of Victoria.
Parts of coastal NSW picked up heavy rains with 75mm recorded at Sydney Airport, a 14 month high. Unfortunately the heavy falls only reached a few pockets of drought stricken western NSW grain belt.
Untimely rain, wind & hail storms have hit wheat production in India's second largest wheat producing state of the Punjab, according to media reports. The state is an important one accounting for 44% of the Indian government's domestic wheat procurement in 2008.
The wheat crop in neighbouring Haryana state, also a major wheat producing area, has been badly affected too reports suggest.
Exactly how badly the crop has been affected is open to conjecture. The government are playing things down saying that production in the Punjab may fall 5 percent from 15.7 million tonnes a year ago.
It is well worth noting at this point that general elections start in India later this month. The government isn't going to be wanting to make any announcements about wheat shortages, even though it's wheat reserves are said to be more than adequate.
While the state government had estimated wheat production in the Punjab to be around 15 million tonnes, it would be lucky if production touches 10 million tonnes, according to the President of Bharti Kisan Union (BKU), Balbir Singh Rajewal. He accuses the Union government of ‘playing politics’ with wheat and rice.
In the midst of harvest India's antiquated grain storage system is falling apart. Large quantities of wheat are stored outside under plastic sheeting, at the mercy of the elements, pests & disease.
Covered space is currently only available to stack 2.9 million tonnes of food grains, whereas space for 11 million tonnes of food grains - including fresh arrivals onto the market from April 1 - is required, Rajewal says.
"We have the capacity to shell 2 million tonnes of paddy every month but we have curtailed our shelling to the bare minimum as covered space was not available to stack rice. At some places millers stopped shelling completely due to lack of space," said Tarsem Saini, president, Rice Millers Association.
Millions starve whilst food rots in fields due to inadequate infrastructure doesn't make much of an election campaign slogan does it?
Russian spring grain plantings are lagging, with just 1.5 million hectares seeded so far, compared to 3.7 million hectares at the same point last year, according to the Agriculture Ministry. Total spring acreage is predicted to exceed 31 million hectares, they say.
The 2009 total grain crop will be around 15-20% lower than in 2008 at 85-90 million tonnes, they estimate.
Unlike the UK, US futures markets were open Monday, May corn closed at $3.875, down 2 ¾ cents; May soybeans finished up 12 3/4 cents at $10.19 3/4; May CBOT wheat ended at $5.23 ¼, up 1 ¼ cents.
Beans closed at their highest level in 2 1/2 months, supported by a delayed reaction to last week's surprisingly low USDA acreage numbers. Continued cold & wet weather in the US Midwest however may only serve to ensure more acres are shifted into beans than currently projected.
Old crop stocks are tight for beans at 165 million bushels, and look set to get tighter still with China far from absent from the market.
The unease in Argentina seems set to keep pushing a little bit of extra export business the way of the US. Export shipments are already running 96 million bushels ahead of year ago, while USDA has projected a smaller net gain for the year.
The first USDA Corn Crop progress report for 2009 came out last night pegging plantings at 2% some way behind the five year average of 6%.
Spring Wheat plantings are at 2% versus a year ago at 8% and 11% for the 4 year average for the same time period. The flooding in the Dakota's is clearly having an effect. Winter Wheat crop conditions are 42% good to excellent and 25% very poor to poor. That is one point down in good/excellent and three points up in poor/very poor on last week's ratings.
EU wheat futures closed flat to lower Thursday with Paris May milling wheat closing down EUR0.25 at EUR136.00/tonne, and November London feed wheat ending unchanged at GBP118.00/tonne.
It was a case of traders tidying up and looking to get away early ahead of the long weekend holiday.
The long-awaited stocks report from the USDA proved to be a non-event for wheat, with 2008/09 carryout coming in bang on expectations at 696 million bushels. Soybean and corn stocks came in a little below what was expected.
Apart from that there was very little fresh news to get too excited about. Iraq bought 250,000mt of wheat in a tender this week, with 100,000mt surprisingly going the way of the US.
Although some analysts said that this may have been a sop to a surprise visit from Obama to Baghdad, it is more likely to be due to Russia running out of the best quality wheat at last.
US wheat continues to struggle to stage a rally, despite reports of serious potential for crop damage in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas by a heavy freeze at the beginning of the week when temperatures fell to 10F and lower in some parts.