EU Wheat Rises For Second Day

23/05/13 -- EU grains extended their mini recovery into a second day, shrugging off the downdraught of falling equities after Fed chairman Ben Bernanke hinted at a scaling back of QE. If the market gets the jitters at the merest hint of it what will it do when it becomes a reality? They can't keep on buying USD85 billion worth of assets every month ad infinitum can they?

US wheat futures rose in afternoon trade, supporting European markets, after weekly export sales came in better than expected and rumours of China buying US wheat spooked some CBOT wheat shorts.

London wheat closed the day with expiring front month May 13 unchanged and untraded at GBP177.75/tonne. New front month Jul 13 ended GBP0.75/tonne higher though at GBP178.75/tonne and new crop Nov 13 finished the day GBP1.10/tonne firmer at GBP179.75/tonne. Nov 13 Paris wheat ended up EUR1.75/tonne at EUR207.75/tonne.

The overall trend still looks down, although there are maybe still just enough concerns around surrounding Black Sea production potential to stop the market sliding too much further just yet. The high close of the year for a front month London wheat was GBP215/tonne on Jan 15, so we have fallen around 17% since then based on tonight's close.

The plight of the alarming decline of old crop values relative to new crop in the UK was partially explained by the HGCA today revising their 2012/13 marketing year wheat import estimate up by 275 TMT from their March forecast to 2.537 TMT, a year-on-year increase of 179%. They pegged exports this season at 800 TMT, a drop of more than two thirds on 2011/12. That takes carryout at the end of this season to a surprisingly ample 1.935 MMT, which is 29% more than at the end of 2011/12 despite last year's production disaster.

Those figures included a downwards revision for Human and Industrial wheat usage of 279 TMT versus March due to the closure of Ensus. Some would argue that given the problems at Vivergo too final H&I usage will need to be reduced further. In addition, imports could ultimately turn out to be higher than 2.537 MMT, taking ending stocks over the 2 MMT mark. UK corn imports in 2012/13 meanwhile were estimated at 1.4 MMT, up 41% on year ago levels.

Strategie Grains trimmed slightly their EU-28 soft wheat production estimate from 131.1 MMT to 130.9 MMT, forecasting a durum wheat crop of 8.0 MMT. That gives us an EU-28 all wheat crop of 138.9 MMT this year, a 5% increase on last year. Corn production was also scaled back a little from 66.5 MMT to 66.4 MMT, although this is still up 15% versus 2012. Barley output was raised from 54.2 MMT to 55.3 MMT, principally due to increased plantings in France, Germany and the UK.

Grain production in the Black Sea countries probably holds the key to where prices go from here. Lanworth yesterday estimated Russia's wheat crop at 50.8 MMT, Ukraine's at 20.3 MMT and Kazakhstan's at 17.4 MMT. The first two being towards the low end of other trade estimates. Even so that gives the three a combined wheat crop of 88.5 MMT, a 47% increase on last year.

Ukraine's APK Inform Agency estimated the 2013 grain crop there at 53.3 MMT, and exports in 2013/14 at 29.1 MMT. Output in 2012 was 42.1 MMT and exports this season are likely to finish up around 24.5 MMT, so we are looking at potential increases of 27% and 19% respectively there.

Russian analysts ProZerno are forecasting a Russian grain crop of 97 MMT this year (the Russian Grain Union expanded their estimate to 90-100 TMT earlier this week), which would be a 35% increase on last year. Of that they estimate the wheat crop at 57.3 MMT (up 52% year-on-year), with the barley crop at 16.5 MMT (up 18%) and corn production at 8.5 MMT (up 4%). They see Russia's 2013/14 wheat exports rising from 10.7 MMT this season to 17 MMT in 2013/14, a 59% increase.

If the Black Sea region does end up with production and export volumes of this kind of magnitude then they are likely to depress the market further once the harvest begins, and confidence in the validity of these sort of numbers increases. They are almost always aggressive early season sellers, even when they haven't got large crops to market. When they have, they can be cut-throat.

In other news, Algeria bought 400 TMT of optional origin milling wheat for August shipment in a tender to buy 50 TMT. Some are saying that France will most likely end up as the country of origin, just because they usually are Algeria's top supplier, others think that Black Sea wheat may figure.

Grain exports from the French port of Rouen slipped to 81 TMT this week, including 75 TMT of soft wheat.