Ukraine Crop Watch

Mike Lee, my agronomist chum in Ukraine has posted this interesting video of how winter wheat and OSR crops over there have emerged from under the snow. As he points out the rape might not look too great by UK standards, but by Ukraine standards he's pretty satisfied.

Another thing of interest is that Mike mentioned a month or so ago that there were media reports over there of Ukraine authorities effectively "blocking the range of pesticides allowed to be imported in to Ukraine". It seems that those reports may have been spot on, as they are awaiting delivery of eighty grands worth of agrochemicals for immediate application to crop there, only to be told that they are "stuck at the border".

It remains to be seen if an assortment of "brown envelopes" will clear the blockage.

Whilst the rape does look pants, it looks less pants than it did three weeks ago: Ukraine OSR 31st March 2010

Argy Farmers Set To Ramp Up Wheat Production

Before the soybean and corn harvest is even out of the way Argy farmers are already considering their options for winter wheat planting.

Two years of successive drought and a general level of dissatisfaction with government restrictions on exports have seen plantings and production fall steeply since a 6.6 million hectare and 18.6 MMT crop in 2007/08.

Production last season was only 7.5 MMT by common consensus off around 2.8 million hectares. (Curiously, and as a separate issue the USDA still have significantly higher production and acreage figures for last season and even the season before than everybody else in Argentina).

Argy exports were 11.2 MMT in 2007/08, but are set to fall by around two thirds to just 4-4.5 MMT in the current marketing year. Lower exports means lower revenue for the government, and growers are cautiously optimistic that export taxes and other restictions will be eased to encourage more plantings for 2010/11, which gets underway next month.

The weather is also a crucial factor, and near ideal growing conditions for soybeans and corn this summer, boosted by beneficial El Nino induced rains have hopefully put the two year wheat jinx to bed.

There are of course additional rotational benefits to giving wheat another chance again this time round too.

It's very early days yet, and there are some very wide apart estimates kicking around at the moment, but all this points to planted area jumping significantly this year.

Anything like normal yields could potentially see the crop double in size to around 15 MMT. Some estimates are even higher, 17.7 MMT is one I've seen, that would represent an increase of 136% on last season. The latter would surpass domestic usage by well over 10 MMT, potentially propelling Argentina back into the world's top five global wheat exporters.

CBOT Closing Comments


May Soybeans closed at exactly USD10.00, down 4 ¼ cents; May Soybean Meal at USD.30, down USD3.30; Soybean Oil was at USD39.35, up 26 points. There was probably some pre-weekend profit-taking after prices moved higher over the course of the week. Rapid corn planting may mean less beans going into the ground than many had anticipated.


May Corn futures closed at USD3.53, down 9 ¼ cents; December Corn futures at USD3.78 ¼, down 9 ½ cents. Corn plantings have progressed at a phenomenal pace this season. Many US growers have been working 24/7 this past week ahead of forecast heavy showers starting Saturday. That may push sowings close to 50% done in Monday night's USDA planting progress report, one of the fastest paces on record.


May CBOT Wheat closed at USD4.93 ¼, down 5 ¼ cents; May KCBT Wheat was at USD5.05 ¾, down 4 ½ cents: May MGEX Wheat at USD5.26 ¾, down 2 cents. Corn and soybean losses weighed on wheat today. Showers over the next week in the HRW growing region are expected to keep crop ratings high. Despite lower plantings, US output could match or even exceed last season.

EU Wheat Closing Comments

London wheat ended with May GBP2.60 higher at GBP104.50/tonne, and May Paris wheat down EUR1.25 at EUR131.00/tonne.

The recent market action has bamboozled many, although it can probably be attributed to a number of factors:

a) "distressed" sellers like Ukraine are pretty much sold out now until new crop arrives.

b) export sales have picked up.

c) farmers are too busy with fieldwork to actually sell anything.

d) large speculative shorts are getting squeezed out.

It is also worth noting comments on earlier in the week: "Anomalies caused by the death throes of the May contract were forcing a wave of short-covering by speculators before Friday, when investing in the lot will mean being prepared to take physical delivery."

So is this rally a God-given opportunity to sell? Almost certainly yes I'd say, although as ever timing is everything. We may well see prices move a bit higher from here on in yet, but I would say with some degree of certainty that prices WILL be lower than they are currently come mid-summer.

Agri-News Snippets From Around The Web

UK wheat growers are being advised to combat high instances of yellow rust this season by sellers of sprays to combat yellow rust. Somewhere between zero and 100 percent of the UK wheat crop could be affected they say.

Large merchants with stocks of fertiliser still sitting going nowhere in their sheds have warned UK farmers that domestic supplies are now at critically tight levels, and that they might just be able to squeeze one last order in before they shut to book.

With Christmas now just 245 sleeps away, UK compounders are advising farmers to get their feed orders in by the end of the week or risk starving their animals to a slow and painful death this year.

UK grain exporters with boats sitting on demurrage at the quayside waiting to load wheat that they haven't yet bought because the market is coming down, are advising farmers to get shot of their remaining burdensome old crop stocks before the harvest starts in Yemen next month.

Scottish maltsters are telling anybody that will listen that, due to the recession, they are fully bought up until 2017.

The Russian Agricultural Ministry say that extremely high instances of winterkill in winter wheat, and drought in spring wheats that haven't even been sown yet, will slash this season's wheat production to just fifteen tonnes.

Rapeseed crushers are advising compounders to leave the rapemeal market alone, it's coming down for sure.

Shippers say that you can forget about front-end premiums and availability problems on soya from South America. There will be no more strikes in Argentina this year, guaranteed.

The Chinese and Indian governments say that there is no need to panic.

Greece says it doesn't need any financial help from anyone, it will put it's own house in order.

Wheat Déjà Vu?

Traders on both sides of the Atlantic seem at a loss to explain the sudden strength that appears to come out of nowhere for wheat.

Is it simply a "spring rally" blip against a background of huge global stocks that every bear in the marketplace keeps harking on about? Or is it a case of all the bearish news is already out there?

It's interesting to note that in 2009 the wheat market declined fairly steadily from January through to mid April (albeit starting from substantially higher levels than where we are now), before putting in a sharp rally that lasted six weeks from mid-April through to the end of May/first week in June. Nov10 London wheat peaked at GBP134/tonne then.

After that the markets went into free-fall, with Nov10 London wheat hitting a harvest low of GBP105.25 in mid-September 2009, before rebounding and then ultimately setting the recent and lifetime contract low of GBP100/tonne on 12th March 2010.

So here we stand today with Nov10 at GBP106.25/tonne as I type, having managed to regain a bit of strength this past month despite a better showing from the pound against both the euro and US dollar.

What can we attribute those gains to? Lack of farmer selling certainly is a factor, whether by design or simply because they are too busy with fieldwork now that spring has finally arrived.

Perhaps of greater significance to my mind is the sheer volume of speculative shorts in wheat. They've been talking the market down for so long, for two years in some cases, that the recent mini-rally has got a few spooked it seems.

European wheat finally got itself into a situation where it could compete on a truly global export stage with the recent highly publicised sales to South America and Asia. That coincided with supplies drying up in places like Ukraine, after six months of extremely aggressive marketing.

So where do we go from here? Are we in for another 2009 style rally through until the end of May? And what happened to spark that rally, and bring it to an end, last year?

There was a severe killing frost at the end of the first week in April 2009 that took out large areas of winter wheat in Oklahoma in particular, and an ongoing drought in Texas also cut wheat production there. US spring wheat plantings were badly delayed by floods of epic proportions last May. Egypt also had it's spat with Russia over wheat quality issues, and there was talk of drought damaging wheat output in Eastern Europe and the CIS.

May is often a pivotal month, as most US spring wheat planting is normally done by the end of then. Farmers have also been actively sowing in Canada, Australia and Argentina. The Indian harvest has been wrapped up, and is underway in China, the two largest producers of wheat in the world.

By June the combines are starting to roll in parts of Southern and Eastern Europe, and on the large US winter wheat fields of Kansas and Oklahoma. Ukraine has had it's giro in and is planning to get drunk on export(s). Cash-starved Romania, Hungary etc simply can't wait to get stuck in either, and so it all starts again.

Even if yields are lower this year and the hard winter has taken it's toll across Europe and the FSU, by June the hungry will have been fed, and the needy will be exporting anything that isn't nailed to the floor. That sounds like prices will go lower again this summer no matter what to me.

Having said that, if you fancy a long term punt, the "Sold Out" signs might be getting hung up in the windows of Ukraine and the likes even earlier in 2010/11. That could make the 2011 "spring rally" quite interesting, and those that have held off selling that long might find that they have a few willing suitors all of a sudden.

There you go, not only what is wheat going to do for the rest of 2010 but I'll even throw in the first quarter of 2011 for free, missus:

CBOT Closing Comments


May Soybeans closed at USD10.04 ¼, up 8 ¾ cents,; May Soybean Meal at USD.60, up USD2.60; May Soybean Oil at USD39.09, up 19 points. Soybean net sales of 308,600 MT for delivery in 2009/10 were up 95 percent from the previous week, China took 128,700 MT of that. There was also a sale of 60,000 MT for delivery in 2010/11 for China. Estimates for combined sales had ranged from 450,000 to 650,000 MT.


May Corn futures closed at USD3.62 ¼, up 3 cents; December Corn futures were at USD3.87 ¾, ¼ cents. Net weekly export sales of 1,481,000 MT for delivery in 2009/10, easily outstripped expectations for sales of between 850,000 and 1.1 MMT. Egypt also bought 120,000 MT of US corn this am. The IGC said that world production in the year ahead will rise by 6 MMT to 809 MMT, but a 13 MMT pick up in consumption sees ending stocks next season decline from 148 MMT to 140 MMT.


May CBOT Wheat ended at USD4.98 ½, up 11 ½ cents; May KCBT Wheat at USD5.10 ½, up 10 ½ cents; May MGEX Wheat was at USD5.28 ¾, up 12 ¼ cents. Wheat net sales of 166,400 metric tons for delivery in 2009/10 were up 65 percent from the previous week. Net sales of 298,300 MT for delivery in 2010/11 were mainly for the Philippines (189,600 MT). Estimates were for combined sales of 350,000 to 500,000 MT.

EU Wheat Closing Comments

May London wheat ends GBP0.30 higher at GBP101.90/tonne, May Paris wheat up EUR0.75 at EUR132.25/tonne.

The market has risen quite a bit in the past few weeks, GBP5.15/tonne in the case of London wheat so far this month and EUR6.50/tonne for Paris May milling wheat since March 31st.

Exactly why is a bit of conundrum. The fundamentals haven't changed a lot, if at all really. Sellers seem more reluctant to sell, and buyers more inclined to buy simply seems to sum it up.

UK exports are running at 1.4 MMT to the end of Feb, Defra said today. We should easily see us surpass the 2009/10 target of 2.2 MMT, given that Mar/Apr exports will be pretty substantial.

Defra released some pretty misleading stocks figures today, comparing Feb 2010 with March 2009. At first glance the numbers look bearish, but when you realise that you are not comparing like with like, then they aren't as bearish as they might seem.

The association of German farming cooperatives (DRV) forecast the 2010 winter wheat crop there around 2% lower at 24.59 MMT.

World Wheat Production Down But Stocks Up

The International Grains Council (IGC) said today that world wheat production for 2010/11 will fall by 17 MMT, or 2.5%, to 658 MMT. Although consumption is seen rising by 9 MMT to 654 MMT in 2010/11, ending stocks for 2010/11 are seen slightly higher than in the current marketing year. Closing stocks for 2009/10 were reduced by 1 MMT from last month to 196 MMT, carryout at the end of 2010/11 is seen at a nine year high of 199 MMT. The increase, despite lower production and higher usage, is due to the 30 MMT increase in opening stocks left over from bumper production in 2008/09.

Corn stocks on the other hand are seen falling, despite higher output in 2010/11. Production in the year ahead will rise by 6 MMT to 809 MMT, but a 13 MMT pick up in consumption sees ending stocks next season decline from 148 MMt to 140 MMT.

CBOT Early Call

The overnight grains closed with very little change. Crude oil is around a dollar easier after the US Energy Dept said that US stocks rose by 1.8 million barrels last week. The dollar is a bit firmer overall.

Export sales were bullish for corn at over 1.4 MMT, beans and wheat were in line with expectations.

Egypt bought 120,000 MT of US corn this am. The soybean sales were a tad flat, but don't include more than 570,000 MT sold to China so far this week.

After ideal planting conditions much of the Midwest is in for a soaking starting tomorrow, that may slow planting up a bit but that hardly sounds like a terrible thing.

Argentina seem to think that maybe they haven;t got the 54-55 MMT soybean crop that most have been latterly forecasting, the Ministry now say maybe "only" 52.5 MMT.

US soybean crush data is friendly at 156.142 million bushels. That indicates that the USDA's current projections for 2009/10 crush are too low.

Also supportive is China keeping coming back for more, despite record crops in South America.

Early calls for this afternoon's CBOT session: corn called flat to 2 higher; soybeans called 1 to 2 higher; wheat called 1 to 2 lower.

USDA Export Sales

The USDA announced another set of large weekly export sales for corn this week, with net sales of 1,481,000 MT for delivery in 2009/10, up 47 percent from the previous week. There were no sales reported for delivery in 2010/11, but old crop sales easily outstripped expectations for sales of between 850,000 and 1.1 MMT.

Soybean net sales of 308,600 MT for delivery in 2009/10 were up 95 percent from the previous week, China took 128,700 MT of that. There was also a sale of 60,000 MT for delivery in 2010/11 for China. Estimates for combined sales had ranged from 450,000 to 650,000 MT.

Wheat net sales of 166,400 metric tons for delivery in 2009/10 were up 65 percent from the previous week. Net sales of 298,300 MT for delivery in 2010/11 were mainly for the Philippines (189,600 MT). Estimates were for combined sales of 350,000 to 500,000 MT.

Corn shipments were 1,155,700 MT, beans 426,900 MT and wheat 432,000 MT. China was the main destination for beans with 188,100 MT.

Chinese Whispers - Let Them Eat Meat

What's going on in China? They aren't exactly famed for playing with what we English would call a "straight bat" old boy, are they?

Certainly, despite record soybean production in South America, they keep coming knocking back on America's door - buying well over half a million tonnes of US soybeans already this week.

It can't all be down to what will probably turn out to be a relatively short-term spat over soyoil with Argentina can it? They've already got more than double the quantity bought for new crop than they did at this time twelve months ago too.

Reports continue to circulate that all is not well in China, with drought and high temperatures threatening crop production in the South West and the late arrival of spring in the North delaying wheat, corn and soybean planting.

Winter wheat production in the North is also under scrutiny. Below-average temperatures in October/November pushed the wheat crop in Northern China into premature hibernation - around 15 days earlier than usual - giving plants less time to develop.

The late arrival of spring has also delayed the crop’s greening phase by around 10-14 days, according to reports.

Official estimates still say that this season's wheat crop will be similar to last season's 114.5 MMT. Various sources, including the USDA's own attache in China, suggest that last season's crop was in reality more like 106-107 MMT.

Private analysts say that production this season will be lower again.

Likewise with corn, whilst official Chinese estimates insist that production last season was 163 MMT, most others peg output at somewhere around 145-155 MMT.

These are significant differences here, especially if we were to multiply them up to take into consideration previous seasons when production was also overstated for political reasons. Stockpiles in China are almost certainly nowhere near as large as the government would like to make out.

China still has some way to go in terms of per capita consumption of meat, despite growth accelerating to that of the fastest in the world. The increase in Chinese consumption of pork between 1998 and 2009 was greater than the TOTAL US consumption of pork in 2009, according to Patrick Westhoff, the co-director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI).

More than half of the global pig population live in China, he says. Meanwhile the Chinese appetite for beef, chicken and dairy produce are all increasing at "phenomenal rates" he adds.

That's a lot of mouths to feed, to feed lots of other mouths. They can make it rain, but can they make the sun shine as well?

UK Wheat Exports To Beat Target?

The UK exported 191,000 MT of wheat in February, bringing total wheat exports for the year to date to 1.4 MMT, according to the latest Defra figures.

With four months left to go in the current July/June marketing year, we need to average 200,000 MT per month to hit Defra's target of 2.2 MMT for the entire marketing year.

That looks easily achievable I'd say once we get the March and April figures in, which will include some sizable "one-off" shipments to the Philippines and other exotic destinations. There's even a consignment of around 45,000 MT loading in Tilbury this week destined for the US, I understand.

It looks likely therefore that we will probably surpass exports of 2.2 MMT during the current season.

To the end of February Spain still remains our number one buyer, taking more than half of all exports, with Portugal, the Netherlands and Ireland bringing up the next three slots.

German Wheat Crop Seen Lower

The association of German farming cooperatives (DRV) forecast the 2010 winter wheat crop there at 24.59 MMT. That's a decrease of around 2% from last season's harvest of 25.2 MMT.

Rapeseed output will also decline to 5.67 MMT, they said (down around 10% from 6.3 MMT in 2009/10), with even greater falls seen in barley (-14%) and rye (-25%) production.

The reductions are seen on lower yields due to the cold winter and slow progress with spring plantings, they said.

CBOT Closing Comments


May Soybeans closed at USD9.95 ½, up 11 ½ cents; May Soybean Meal at USD293, up USD0.55; May Soybean Oil at USD38.90, down 17 points. China bought 174,000 MT of US soybeans for 2010/11 delivery announced by private exporters today. Their ongoing trade dispute with Argentina doesn't look like it is going to be resolved anytime soon. Estimates for tomorrow's weekly export sales range from 450,000 to 650,000 MT.


May Corn futures closed at USD3.59 ¼, up 3 ¾ cents; December Corn futures were at USD3.87 ½, up 2 ¼ cents. US farmers have been very bust with corn plantings, although field progress looks likely to stall with 2 to 4 inches of rain over the next five days. Estimates for tomorrow's weekly export sales are between 850,000 and 1.1 MMT.


May CBOT Wheat closed at USD4.87 ¼, up 1 ¼ cents; May KCBT Wheat at USD4.99 ¾, down 2 cents; May MGEX Wheat at USD5.16 ¼, down 3 cents. It's already been a very volatile week for wheat, with futures closing sharply higher last night, after being sharply lower on Monday. Trade estimates for tomorrow's weekly export sales report range from 350,000 to 500,000 MT.

EU Wheat Closing Comments

May London wheat ended GBP2.35 higher at GBP101.60/tonne, with May Paris wheat up EUR2.00 at EUR131.50/tonne.


It seems like a long time since we last didn't start London wheat with a nine doesn't it? "I'll have three from the top, two from the middle and a nine to begin with from the bottom please Carole." Wasn't that how it used to go?

It seems that despite the weight of "burdensome world stocks" nothing can go down forever, even Ms Voorderman.

With the overwhelming weight of bearish news seemingly already out in the market, how much worse can things get?

I suspect that some may have got themselves carried away with their own invincibility, maybe there are a few more heavy shorts out there than the market has realised. For sure, selling the market short has been a cert way to profits until now.

For sure, everybody KNOWS that the market is gong lower don't they? So make the export sales and cover them in at lower money when the time comes.

Except what if there are no sellers then? What if you have the boats lined up and no physical sellers? Erm, well maybe nobody thought of that, it was just too unlikely a scenario.

Just suppose that more or less every compounder in the country didn't bother to buy May/July wheat because it was so blindingly obvious to Stevie Wonder that the market was coming lower?

And just also suppose that almost every sensible farmer in the country already had all of his old crop wheat sold because it was painstakingly obvious that carrying it until the summer was clearly stupid because everybody told him so?

Just wonderin' like.

It's Coming...

...but be patient, because when it comes it will blow your mind.

Why haven't I done any blogging today? No I haven't been sat around all day drinking beer and watching Trisha, I've been working on "stuff". Original "stuff". The kind of "stuff" that YOU will love. That's right, one-off, mind-blowing and FREE "stuff".

Keep checking back for more "stuff" updates as we get them...

CBOT Closing Comments


May Soybeans closed at USD9.84, up 7 ¼ cents; May Soybean Meal at USD283.90, up USD3.60; May Soybean Oil at USD39.07, up 14 points. Private exporters reported anther sale of soybeans to China for 2010/11 delivery for 232,000 MT. Good progress with US corn plantings potentially means less opportunity for switching to soybean acres. China keep coming back to feed, and imports are set to be record large in May.


May Corn futures a=closed at USD3.55 ½, up 7 ¾ cents; December Corn futures were at USD3.85 ¼, also up 7 ¼ cents. Crude oil rebounded and the dollar was weaker, helping to reverse Monday's losses. Although US corn planting picked up significantly last week, as reported at 19% complete by the USDA Monday night, some had thought that 20-25% may have been nearer to mark.


May CBOT Wheat closed at USD4.86, up 18 ¼ cents; May KCBT Wheat at USD5.01 ¾, up 18 ½ cents; May MGEX Wheat at USD5.19 ¼, up 18 ½ cents. It was a surprising move, with wheat gaining back most of Monday's steep losses. Funds, which sold an estimated 7,000 contracts on Monday, bought an estimated 6,000 contracts back today in Chicago. That came despite Monday night's USDA crop condition report showing significant improvement for winter wheat (69% G/E from 65% a week ago) and spring wheat being 20% planted, up from 6% a year ago.

EU Wheat Closing Comments

May London wheat ends Tuesday GBP0.85 higher at GBP99.25/tonne, with May Paris wheat up EUR1.50 at EUR129.50/tonne.

It was another "Turnaround Tuesday" with US levels reversing their price action of the previous Monday.

London wheat may have gained more of it had not been for the pound gaining as UK inflation rose to 3.4%, from 3% in Feb, and analysts expectations of an increase of only 3.1%.

EU farmers continue to play their one remaining trump card, holding back on selling whatever old crop stocks they have left. If consumers need it then they may have to pay up, or use something else.

As far as new crop is concerned, there are one or two potential problem areas around. However these don't include the largest producing counties in the EU-27 such as France, Germany and the UK.

Eastern Europe, and maybe northern countries like Denmark are where some significant yield losses might occur.

ABF Shine, Led By Primark

Associated British Foods today report better than expected first-half profits, with High Street darling Primark once again the shining star.

Group revenues increased by 10% to £4,796 million and adjusted operating profit was 25% ahead of last year at £370 million.

Primark's results showed a revenue increase of 19% to GBP1,263 million and profits ahead 18% to GBP144 million.

Sugar revenues were up 44% to GBP931 million, and profits increased 39% to GBP85 million. "In the EU, the UK business had an excellent campaign. Favourable growing conditions and improved beet yields led to production of 1.3 million tonnes of sugar which was better than expected and 9% ahead of last year," they said.

"Construction of Vivergo's wheat bioethanol plant is continuing and is expected to be fully operational by summer 2011. Bioethanol prices in the first half have been high, to the benefit of our existing bioethanol facility at Wissington which operated at full capacity throughout the period," they added.

In Agriculture revenues rose by a more modest 4% to GBP432 million and operating profit fell by a third to GBP12 million. "Adjusted operating profit in the first half was lower than last year's exceptionally high level with reduced volatility in UK grain markets leading to lower profit from trading activities in Frontier," they sob.

Quote of the Day

From the excellent Benson Quinn Commodities, ref CBOT wheat:

"barring a significant production disruption caused by something like a weather event of Biblical proportion, the wheat market just can’t seem to sustain these short covering rallies and they continue to be selling opportunities."

Alas, I think they're right.

CBOT Closing Comments


May Soybeans closed at USD9.76 ¾, down 8 ½ cents; May Soybean Meal at USD283.90, up USD3.00; May Soybean Oil at USD38.93, down 87 points. Soybeans did the best of the grains complex on ideas that US corn plantings progressed very swiftly last week, reducing the chance of switching some acres into beans. The USDA announced a swap of 165,000 MT of soybeans for 2009/10 delivery for China that were moved to the 2010/11. Crude oil was sharply lower which had a negative influence, particularly on soybean oil.


May Corn closed at USD3.47 ¾, down 16 ¼ cents; December Corn futures ended at USD3.78, also down 16 ¼ cents. Today wiped out almost all of last week's corn gains. A glorious week last week was confirmed after the close, with the USDA reporting 19% of the crop planted compared to 9% for the five year average. Private exporters announced the sale of 120,000 MT of corn to unknown destinations and 110,000 MT of corn sold to South Korea for 2009/10 delivery. Crude oil was sharply lower as the Goldman Sachs affair hit confidence and the ongoing Icelandic volcano eruptions bring EU air traffic to a virtual standstill.


May CBOT Wheat finished at USD4.67 ¾, down 22 ¾ cents; May KCBT Wheat at USD4.83 ¼, down 23 ¼ cents; May MGEX Wheat at USD5.00 ¾, down 19 ¼ cents. Wheat gave up just about all of last week's gains in one session. The USDA report US winter wheat conditions are 69 percent good/excellent, up from 65 percent last week and 43 percent last year. Although US winter wheat plantings are down, conditions like this may mean only a negligible, if any, fall in production this year. Spring wheat is 20 percent planted vs the five year average of 14 percent.

EU Wheat Declines On Outside Influences

May London wheat ended Monday GBP0.60 easier at GBP98.40/tonne, with May Paris wheat down EUR1.50 at EUR128.00/tonne.

Last week we had what Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg had to say on the television influencing the wheat market, today we get Goldman Sachs facing fraud charges in the US and the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruption having their say.

What next I ask myself? Who wins the BBC's Over The Rainbow?

Whilst nobody seems to be seriously thinking that the Icelandic situation may harm wheat production in Europe, it is certainly causing some economic damage judging by the sight of an almost tearful FlyBe CEO on the national news last night.

The oil market took a hit as all those planes on the tarmac aren't burning anything, with crude now down by around USD4/barrel since last Thursday.

The Goldman Sachs affair seems to have knocked investor confidence in general too. Ideas that there may be similar investigations into their activities in the UK and Germany look likely to hang of the market for some time also.

What were we supposed to be talking about again? Oh, yeah wheat. Things weren't going too badly for wheat early on, with London in positive territory thanks to the pound declining after weekend opinion polls showed another strong performance from the Lib Dems.

America opened lower and things only got worse from thereon in, which quickly got European futures into negative territory.

Reports suggest that wheat losses in Denmark may have been quite significant after the harsh winter. It also seems that spring planting is well behind in the likes of Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

As well as this likely adversely affecting yields, lack of available credit is also a problem. This may lead to some acreage reductions and further yield losses.

Overnight Grains Close, Early Call

The overnight grains began the week in defensive mode, with beans down around 6-8 cents, wheat 3-4 cents easier and corn off around 5-6 cents.

The continued fallout over Golden Sacks that started on Friday has the market feeling nervous, with the accompanying flight to safety boosting the dollar, thereby weighing on commodities.

Crude is more than USD2/barrel weaker, which will also pressure grains.

The pound and euro are also under pressure due to the economic effect of the virtually halt to flights in Europe due to the Icelandic volcanic eruption.

It's been a great week in the Midwest, where US corn plantings may have advanced to 20-22% complete by April 17, up from 3% the previous week, according to Martell Crop Projections. The USDA will release updated progress figures after the close tonight, normal is around 10% for this time of year.

Shower activity is expected to increase from midweek, with widespread heavy rains kicking in by the weekend. "The 6-10 outlook for April 24-29 is not promising for rapid planting, featuring below normal temperatures and above average rainfall," they add.

Soy will get some support from talk that US exports to China will get a boost from the ongoing spat with Argentina. Chinese bean imports are expected to be record large in May and June.

Argy farmers are proposing a strike on 3rd May.

The Indian wheat harvest is well advanced, although yields may have been trimmed by temperatures well above normal this month and last. Bangladesh has bought 300,000 MT of Russian wheat over the weekend.

Early calls for this afternoon's CBOT session: corn called 4 to 6 lower; soybeans called 6 to 8 lower; wheat called 2 to 4 lower.

India Swelters

The Indian government insist that they are on target to produce another bumper wheat harvest in 2010 despite weekend temperatures hitting a more than 50 year high for April.

With temperature hovering above 45 degree Celsius at many places, at least eighty people are reported to have died.

In Rajasthan, western parts are badly affected by the severe heat-wave, whilst Uttar Pradesh is reeling under severe heat conditions. Most part of that state recorded 4 to 6 degree Celsius higher temperature than normal over the weekend. According to met department Agra was the hottest place where mercury touched 45.6 degrees Celsius (114 degrees F).

A senior official with the ministry of agriculture on Sunday said that wheat production is not likely to be adversely impacted, as harvesting has been completed in most places. He expressed the hope that production this year is likely to be around 82 MMT.

He is obviously ignoring the fact that maximum temperatures in March have also been 5-7 F above normal in Haryana and Punjab, the top yielding wheat states, but why should that surprise us?

Another thing that doesn't spring any shocks is that the government have bought 13 MMT of domestic wheat already since April 1st, when they are paying the kind of crazy money that they are.

Ukraine Latest

Only around half of the planned spring grain area in Ukraine has been sown to date, well behind planting progress of a year ago, according to the Ag Ministry.

Spring wheat and barley are around 86% planted, although other crops like sunflower are only just beginning to get sown, they say.

"Sunflower drilling has got underway this weekend with drills working away all over the place," says Nogger's Ukraine agronomist Mike Lee. "Soya will follow on as it's less frost hardy than sunflowers, and local knowledge suggest late frosts are still a possibility for another week or so. Ditto maize," he adds.

"In Ukraine, the rape is picking up a bit with sun and fertiliser, but I think it's true to say it's not going to be a bumper harvest this year," he predicts.

"Wheat looks good at the moment," he adds.

Pound Declines On Polls, Volatile Week Ahead

The pound is sharply lower after another raft of weekend opinion polls showed an improved showing from the Lib Dems.

Despite assertions from David Cameron and Gordon Brown over the weekend that the leadership fight is a two horse race (which it probably is), an improved performance by Nick Clegg increases the chance of a hung parliament.

Although the leaders of the main two parties might really believe that it is a two horse race, they both seemed to go out of their way in Thursday night's televised debate to attempt to get Clegg onside, just in case. Maybe what you might call a two and a half horse race.

Another unsettling factor today is the news that Goldman Sachs are facing fraud charges in the US, and are also under scrutiny in the UK and Germany.

It could be another volatile week ahead for sterling, with an assortment of data due out over the coming days.

The minutes of the April meeting of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee are due this week, but it seems highly unlikely that they will throw up any surprises in the run up to an election.

Likely to be of more significance are inflation figures tomorrow, unemployment data on Wednesday and government borrowing & retail sales figures on Thursday. After that on Friday we have the first estimate of the first quarter gross domestic product figures.