CBOT Closing Comments

03/12/10 -- Soybeans

CBOT Jan soybeans ended 20 1/2c higher at USD13.00 1/4c a bushel; Jan soymeal rose USD5.90 to USD351.60; Jan soyoil ended 61 pips higher at 53.45. Beans broke through the psychologically important USD13/bushel mark, with Jan posting the highest weekly settlement in the life of the contract. The dollar fell on the back of a lower than expected nonfarm payroll increase, and crude oil posted it's highest close since October 2008 nearing USD90/barrel. Argentine dryness is already causing concern with little more than half the crop in the ground.


Dec corn rose 17 3/4 cents to USD5.58 1/2; March corn rose 18 cents to USD5.73 1/2. The weak dollar and rising crude oil price also helped corn, as too did spillover support from resurgent wheat. Corn bulls should be mindful that the problems in Australia could actually be negative for US corn demand into Asia. The dryness problems in Argentina raise concerns over the corn crop as well as soybeans, in what is the world's second largest exporter of the grain. Unlike soybeans corn planting in Argentina is ahead of last year at 81% complete, versus 77% this time a year ago.


CBOT March wheat ended up 30 1/2c at USD7.79 a bushel; KCBT March wheat rose 20 1/4c to USD8.22; MGEX March wheat climbed 22c to USD8.35 1/4. Wheat posted strong gains on all three exchanges as the market starts to catch onto the fact that before too long there's maybe only going to be one quality wheat shop left open - the US. Eu exports are flying out, and Australia's wheat crop seems to be deteriorating on a daily basis. Argentina will have a better wheat crop this year, but much of their surplus is likely to go to neighbouring Brazil.

EU Wheat Close

03/12/10 -- EU wheat futures closed higher once again Friday, with Jan London wheat up GBP2.45 to GBP187.45/tonne and Jan Paris wheat EUR1.50 firmer at EUR235.25/tonne.

This was London wheat's twelfth higher close out of the last thirteen trading sessions, during which time it has posted impressive gains of GBP31.70/tonne having risen more than GBP10.00/tonne this week alone. Paris wheat is up EUR17.00/tonne since last Friday.

London wheat is gaining on ideas that the domestic crop has been more aggressively sold for export in the last six months than anybody realised. UK exports are subsequently running well ahead of schedule, as too are those in the EU as a whole - 40% up on last season at the last count earlier this week.

That puts Europe on course to export almost 2 MMT more than the USDA currently predict, which would come straight off the bottom line ending stocks for 2010/11. At 10.7 MMT those are already forecast to be the smallest since 1983/84.

What are by now becoming well-documented problems in Australia sees the harvest in the east running 4-6 weeks behind schedule, with serious implications on quality, if not also now quantity starting to emerge.

Potential problems now also lie ahead for US and Russian winter wheat when it emerges from dormancy in the spring. US wheat currently has one of the highest poor/very poor ratings in the last twenty years at 17%. In the top producing US state of Kansas poor/very poor is now rated at a weighty 25%, further west in Colorado it's 40%.

Russian winter wheat plantings are forecast down 14% to 28 million acres, according to the IGC. That puts a lot of pressure on spring plantings, especially as spring wheat normally yields around 20% less than winter sown wheat in Russia. In addition, sunflowers are said to be a more profitable crop than spring wheat for Russian growers.

Early Call On Chicago

03/12/10 -- The overnight grains were firmer, led by wheat which posted gains of 17/22c. Corn finished 6/7c on spillover support from wheat, with beans up 7/8c.

Considering that the world can ill-afford a weather problem in 2011, suddenly the market is like a punch-drunk boxer on the ropes, getting hit from all angles.

Eastern Australia's wheat crop is in a mess, with talk of up to half of it only making feed grade. With Western Australia's crop slashed to around 3.5 MMT by drought, South Australia and east are expected to chip in with a wheat crop of around 20 MMT to make up the deficit. So we could be looking at taking up to 10 MMT out of the quality wheat supply chain for 2010/11.

The US winter wheat crop is entering dormancy in the worst state for years. The USDA reported on crop conditions this side of spring for the last time on Monday, pegging only 47% of the crop in the good/excellent category, one of the lowest percentages in years.

Now reports are circulating that around 9 million acres of China's principal wheat growing areas have been hit by drought. That's around 20% of the total planted area, and below average rainfall is expected to continue through to February.

Taiwan bought US wheat today, reputedly paying just under USD550/tonne for 14% Dark Northern Spring wheat, that would have to be amongst the highest prices paid in a good while as Asian buyers scramble for quality wheat.

Stats Canada peg all wheat production there this season at 23.2 MMT, 12.5% down on last year. Heavy spring flooding is also said to have taken it's toll on quality here too.

La Nina seems to be throwing up more difficulties than El Nino ever did with Argentina also under threat from only scant rainfall, with soybean plantings only managing to reach 57% done this week, according to the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange.

Meanwhile Russia's sharply lower and late planted winter wheat acreage faces a testing few months, and there are serious concerns as to their ability to be able to pull-off their targeted big spring planting increases.

For the week so far (excluding today's Globex markets) we see March CBOT wheat up 61 1/4 cents, Jan soybeans up 41 1/4 cents and March corn up 2 1/2 cents. Corn is clearly lagging on ideas that there may be 10 MMT more feed wheat on the market to tempt Asian buyers early in 2011.

Early calls for this afternoon's CBOT session: Corn and beans up 8-10c, wheat up 20-25c.

London Wheat Surges To Fresh Highs

03/12/10 -- London wheat has me flipping back through the record books this morning after front month January opens GBP3.45 higher at GBP188.45/tonne. Not only is that a contract high, a close at that would be the highest since March 26th 2008. Which just happens to be my birthday!

The overnight Globex market now sees wheat up around 23-24c, posting gains of 75-85c since last Friday's close.

"There is clearly going to be a dearth of quality wheat available in the first half of 2011, with America looking like being the only volume long-holder," say Dow Jones Newswires today. I wonder where they read that? Oh, there it is just a bit lower down, says an observer.

There you go, you wait all this time then two free lunches come along in quick succession. They could at least call me Nogger rather than an observer, you'd have thought. Internationally renowned blogger, market analyst, divorce specialist and raconteur would be better, but I'd settle for Nogger.

No Such Thing As A Free Lunch?

03/12/10 -- Who says that there's no such thing as a free lunch? Get your knife and fork out and pull up a chair, say the people at Farmers Weekly. Due to potential circulation issues with the wintry weather gripping the country they've put this week's edition of the magazine out in digital format completely free!

Have a quick (or leisurely) shuftie here: Shameless freeloader and proud of it

Early Vibe

03/12/10 -- Chicago wheat, which was 25c up in early trade yesterday, gave up much of those gains by the close finishing 8-9c higher on spillover weakness from corn and beans. That lost ground has been recovered this morning though, with the overnight session showing gains of 15-20c.

Australian milling wheat futures are soaring, posting 7% gains overnight for a rise of almost 30% in a week. The current La Nina episode, which is causing dryness concerns in Argentina, continues to dump rain across the entire grain belt on the eastern side of Australia which starts in Queensland runs down through NSW, Victoria and finishing in South Australia. "The same front has been hanging around now for about 7 days and looks like staying here for another week or so," says my newest Australian buddy Shaneo.

His wheat is now only likely to be suitable for feeding after earlier looking like being "the best they have been for as long as my father can remember," he says.

Thanks to Shaneo, Bill Crabtree and Andrew Jurgs who all emailed me to confirm that grain driers are indeed relatively few and far between Down Under, leaving most Australian farmers with little choice other than to sit back and watch the cricket whilst Mother Nature does their drying for them.

They're going to have to wait a while longer yet, QT Weather say that "A progression of storms will keep east Australia soggy for the next 10 days."

"In major cropping areas, rainfall anomalies for November were 50-150mm (2-6 inches) above normal, setting the stage for this month’s flooding, crop damage and harvest stoppages as rains have been relentless," they add.

Yet again, the quality wheat supply and demand picture continues to tighten.

Meanwhile the Chinese government got no bids whatsoever in this week's 300,000 MT soybean auction. It would seem that the minimum price was set too high to attract local interest. They also announced plans to auction off a further 100,000 MT of rapeseed oil next week. They sold 70% of what was on offer at their last auction.

The lucky old Chinese say that they had a record grain harvest of 546.4 MT in 2010, the seventh year of increases in a row, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. They say that production rebounded this year from last season's drought-affected crop. They don't explain how last season's drought-affected crop officially managed to top 2008's non drought-affected crop. Neither do they enlighten us on why last season they insisted that the crop hadn't been affected by drought. Better get me Charlie Chan on line two....

Brussels have now issued export licences for 10.1 MMT of soft wheat less than halfway through the marketing year, 40% up on this time a year ago. If we were to maintain that pace then we'd export 23.9 MMT in 2010/11, almost 2 MMT more than the USDA currently predict. The vast majority of this week's licences went once again to France - 396,000 MT.

Going back to QT Weather, they say that a second wave of ocean cooling means that we won't see La Nina peak until March. That's later than the Dec/Feb time frame that other forecasters are giving. If they're right that could continue to cause problems for South America, particularly Argentine soybeans and corn.

Chicago Close

02/12/10 -- Soybeans

Jan 11 soybeans closed at USD12.79 3/4, down 3 1/4 cents; Dec 10 soybean meal closed at USD344.10, down USD2.50; Dec 10 soybean oil closed at 52.47, up 22 points. Today's weekly export sales came in at 1.4 MMT, above trade expectations for sales of 1-1.3 MMT, and the highest in a month. China booked it's biggest total in four months. US sales currently stand at more than three quarters of the USDA's projected total for the entire marketing year, normally that total is on 55%.


Dec 10 corn closed at USD5.40 3/4, down 11 cents; Mar 11 corn closed at USD5.55 1/2, down 10 3/4 cents. Export sales were in line with trade expectations at 758,050 MT. In addition to those sales the USDA today announced 135,000 MT of corn sold to Japan and 238,000 MT to "unknown". Trade talk for corn is starting to focus on the likelihood, or otherwise, of the existing tax break on corn ethanol being extended when it expires at the end of the year.


Dec 10 CBOT wheat closed at USD7.06 1/2, up 9 cents; Dec 10 KCBT wheat closed at USD7.87 1/4, up 6 1/2 cents; Dec 10 MGEX wheat closed at USD7.93 1/4, up 9 cents. Wheat futures closed up but well off session highs. The USDA today reported wheat export sales of 663,300 MT for the 2010/11 marketing year, plus 40,900 MT for delivery in 2011/12. That is in line with expectations for sales of 500-700,000 MT. Australian problems are adding to ideas that quality wheat will be in short supply come the spring.

EU Wheat Close

02/12/10 -- EU wheat futures closed higher with Jan11 London wheat up GBP1.75 to GBP185.00/tonne and Nov11 London wheat up GBP1.95 to GBP156.00/tonne. Jan11 Paris wheat rose EUR4.75 to EUR233.75/tonne and Nov11 Paris wheat was up EUR3.00 to EUR209.50/tonne.

Futures closed a little off the days highs, which were set early on, on profit-taking. Even so London wheat posted new contract highs and the highest close for a front month since March 26th 2008.

The strong pace of EU exports continues unabated. Brussels issued export licences for 558,000 MT of wheat during the past week, that brings the cumulative total for the marketing year to date to 10.1 MMT, 40% up on this time last year.

Missing out on yesterday's Egyptian tender looks like a blessing in disguise at this rate.

Australia's wheat crop is going downhill rapidly in the east, with some reports suggesting that things are so drowned out that some of the crop there won't even be suitable for feeding. It is an enormous kick in the nether regions for farmers in the area who have struggled against drought over the past few years.

The harvest there is now running at least a month behind. Unlike in the UK, many growers are huge distances away from the few grain driers that they have Down Under. So sitting tight and waiting for nature to do it's job is the only really viable option for the majority of Australian farmers, according to Andrew Jurgs, grain analyst at Czarnikow.

There is clearly going to be a dearth of quality wheat available in the first half of 2011, with America looking like being the only volume long-holder.

Early Call On Chicago

02/12/10 -- The overnight grains were mixed, with wheat ending 8-9c higher, beans 7-8c lower and corn down 3-4c.

Wheat was up on the back of Australian weather woes, and large-scale crop downgrades. Heavy rain, flash flooding and hail hit Victoria this morning, with some places recording 12mm of rain in just ten minutes. More is forecast for tomorrow, with only a brief respite over the weekend before heavy rain and storms will again cross the state mid-next week.

In South America, Argentine soybean plantings are well behind normal. November soybean rainfall was only 39% of normal in the key soy provinces, allowing little more than 50% of the crop to get planted and hampering germination.

What rain has fallen has tended to be only in the form of light showers, certainly not the widespread soaking that growers there are hoping for. There are no such drenching rains in the forecast either, and temperatures are into the 90's next week.

The USDA today reported wheat export sales of 663,300 MT for the 2010/11 marketing year, plus 40,900 MT for delivery in 2011/12. That is in line with expectations for sales of 500-700,000 MT.

Soybean sales came in at 1.4 MMT, above trade expectations for sales of 1-1.3 MMT. Corn sales were in line with trade estimates at 758,100 MT.

In addition to those sales the USDA today announced 135,000 MT of corn sold to Japan and 238,000 MT to "unknown".

Early calls for this afternoon's CBOT session: wheat up 7-9c; corn down 3-4c; beans down 6-8c.

Rocket Man

02/12/10 -- May London wheat opens GBP3.00/tonne higher this morning, with new crop Nov up GBP2.95/tonne in early trade. May is now up GBP12.80/tonne and Nov up GBP8.00/tonne in a week.

The difference between this rally and the one of 2007/08 is that this one has more to do with the fundamentals of supply and demand.

Supply is getting tighter by the day, and it is seriously starting to look like we will run out of wheat. Having said that from a feed perspective wheat is bloody expensive stuff at GBP180/190 ex farm, which is where it is now, you could buy rapemeal or DDGS at not much more than that.

Unfortunately however, you can't put rapemeal of DDGS through a bioethanol or starch refinery, or load them onto a boat labelled "wheat" and ship them abroad against a sale you made at GBP100/tonne six months ago. More's the pity.

Morning Muse

02/12/10 -- It's 8.30am, and as I haven't left the house yet I haven't been accused of any wrongdoing so far today. Taff's car isn't there, so he's either gone to work or I've stolen it. The people at No84 are probably too busy to go to work, there's logs to keep, surveillance cameras to de-ice and so much filing to keep on top of you wouldn't believe. I'm sure that the local police are very grateful though.

The overnights are mostly down a little I see, but hardly what you would call a major reversal. Japan have bought 209,000 MT of US wheat overnight. This was expected, but it's interesting to note the size of the tender is somewhat larger than their normal weekly requirement.

Egypt bought all US wheat yesterday, booking 220,000 MT at cheaper levels than EU origin options.

Australian wheat futures closed sharply higher this morning. The situation in the east is starting to remind me of our own wheat harvest from 2008. There's plenty of it but it's all soaking wet and will only be fit for feed, but first it needs to be harvested.

As I know that the blog gets some Australian readers maybe one of them will kindly email me the answer to this question. What are the farmers' options when it comes to harvesting wet grain? I mean I don't imagine that there's a grain drier just down the road waiting for the one harvest every blue moon that throws up a mountain of wet grain.

SovEcon predict that Russia will harvest 75-85 MMT of grain in 2011, some 15-25 MMT more than this year, but also around 20-30 MMT down on 2009 and 30-40 MMT below the bumper crop of 2008.

A crop towards the lower end of that scale would do little more than cover domestic demand. Even one at the upper end would only serve to supply local demand and replenish carryover stocks which will surely be depleted this season.

That is why I find it difficult to envisage Russia back as a volume seller until 2012. It's going to be late 2011 before they've wrapped up next years corn harvest and know for sure what kind of volume they have to play with, and it isn't likely to be enough. That potentially puts them out of the game until the second half of 2012.

In Argentina there's still almost half the soybean crop left to sow. Leading South American analyst Michael Cordonnier says that although the planting window is still open until the end of the month, the optimum time for planting is already behind us. Yield prospects generally decline on beans sown later than the third week in November, he says.

Shocking News

02/12/10 -- The kids rang me last night totally distraught (they live down south with MrsN#1), to say that they'd come home from school yesterday to find the entire house ransacked. Windows and doors wide open, and everything gone. What sort of a person does that, eh? Apparently Mrs N#1 had had a bit of a choc-craving and ate the entire contents of their advent calendars in one sitting ;-)

CBOT Close

01/12/10 -- Soybeans

Jan 11 soybeans closed at USD12.83, up 40 cents; Dec 10 soybean meal closed at USD346.60, up USD8.00; Dec 10 soybean oil closed at 52.25, up 160 points. Helping today's rally was the drop in the dollar and stronger crude oil. Chinese PMI data shows that its economy is still accelerating, supporting ideas that demand for commodities will continue. Trade estimates for tomorrow’s weekly report range from 1 to 1.2 MMT.


Dec 10 corn closed at USD5.51 3/4, up 21 3/4 cents; Mar 11 corn closed at USD5.66 1/4, up 22 1/4 cents. A new month and new money seems to have got the entire grain complex off to a flying start. Outside macro markets also provided some support today. Crude oil closed more than USD2.50/barrel higher. Estimates for tomorrows weekly export sales report range from 650,000 to 850,000 MT.


Dec 10 CBOT wheat closed at USD6.97 1/2, up 47 1/4 cents; Dec 10 KCBT wheat closed at USD7.80 3/4, up 50 3/4 cents; Dec 10 MGEX wheat closed at USD7.84 1/4, up 44 1/4 cents. Production concerns remain for US, Australia, Argentina and Russia. Meanwhile Egypt bought 220,000 MT of all US wheat in today's tender. Estimates for tomorrows weekly export sales report range form 550,000 to 650,000 MT.

EU Wheat Close

01/12/10 -- EU wheat futures closed with Jan11 London wheat up GBP4.05 at GBP183.25/tonne, and Nov11 London wheat up GBP4.15 to GBP154.05/tonne. Jan11 Paris wheat gained EUR5.00 to EUR229.00/tonne and Nov11 Paris wheat rose EUR6.50 to EUR206.50/tonne.

In London, the July future is now less than GBP10/tonne away from breaking through the psychologically important GBP200/tonne level.

London wheat posted another highest close for a front month since late March 2008 record. EU wheat gained on the continued weakness of the euro, London wheat continues to benefit from ideas that the 2010 crop has been oversold on the export front.

Egypt bought 220,000 MT of US wheat today, usurping French origin amongst others, but nobody seems to mind. The EU simply don't need to try and compete. Why hold a pre-Christmas sale when there's nothing left to sell in the store?

Australia is in trouble. Wheat in the west have been decimated by drought, whilst crops in the east are drowning under incessant rains. Quality is going down the pan rapidly.

Heavy snowfall across northern Europe will help protect crops from winterkill. However snow cover is relatively scant in Ukraine and Russia, raising further concern for late-planted wheat.

A Day In The Life

01/12/10 -- Just popped out for half an hour in quite heavy snow to pick MrsN#3 up from her relaxing day at the local health spa, only to get back to a message to go and see Taff the angry Welshman over the road.

What could he want with me I wonder, maybe he's taken exception to that sheep story from yesterday I ponder? But no, I reversed into his car a short time ago and drove off without stopping, according to Taff. He knows it was me because the people at No84 saw me and came up the street to tell him.

The location of said dent in Taff's front wing and the positioning of his car on the road make it nigh on impossible that it could have been me. You simply wouldn't hit his car in that particular spot reversing off the drive to head off down the road. But the people at No84 are adamant.

"Yes it was definitely him, reversing off that drive in that big silver car, saw it with my own eyes," the Neighbourhood Watch insist.

"Could you please just come up the road then and show me where and how I hit it," I request. They are keen, strangely very keen to oblige.

So up they both come, in a family outing sort of a way. Think poor man's CrimeWatch. They're muttering. "It was definitely you, in your big car."

"14.49 it was," Miss Marple pipes up, as if she's made a specific note of the time, just as you would if you witnessed a multiple shooting for example. She seems a tad disappointed that there aren't any BBC film crews about. (And by the way 14.45 was my allotted time for collecting MrsN#3, and as it was snowing I'd left well before that).

So we arrive at the scene of the crime. "Here you are, your car there reversed off your drive there, and hit this car right here. Look you can see the tyre prints in the snow."

"Erm, but those tyre prints are pointing up the road and I reversed off to head down the road."

"Oh, now that I come to think about it I think the car that did it was a bit more silver than that. But it was definitely a Ford like yours."

"That is a Nissan."

"Oh yes, so it is. You know, I don't think it was you now."

I hope they aren't witnesses against me in a murder trial, that's all I can say.

Early Call On Chicago

01/12/10 -- The overnight grains raced higher to start the month with wheat leading the way around 23-25c firmer, with corn up 8c or so and beans 16-18c higher.

Crude is up almost a dollar and a half, and the US dollar is a bit weaker. News that China's manufacturing index posted a 7-month high last month was also seen as evidence that their economy is continuing to grow, boosting the longevity of demand for grains from that sector.

Wheat is up on ideas that Australia's crop in the east is quickly becoming a wash-out, further tightening the global supply/demand picture for quality wheat.

The flip side is that much of this downgraded wheat will likely soon be making it's way to Asia to replace corn in feed rations.

Weather concerns also remain for US and Russian winter wheat.

There are assorted wheat tenders kicking around, but the Egyptian one will as ever be the most closely watched. News on that is expected later this afternoon.

Argentine dryness concerns are growing, with problems also in some areas of Brazil. At least one leading analysts has downgraded his soybean production forecasts for those two this week, with more downward revisions likely on the way - especially for the former.

Any delays in plantings in South America will postpone China's inevitable switch away from buying US beans, tightening US ending stocks for 2010/11 even further.

Malaysian palm oil values reached their highest levels in more than two years overnight. The February future in Kuala Lumpur broke through 3,500 ringgit for the first time since July 2008 on the strong export pace.

Early calls for this afternoon's CBOT session: wheat up 20-25c; corn up 6-8c; soybeans up 16-18c.

The British Livestock Sector

01/12/10 -- Feed prices are continuing to rise rapidly, in stark contrast to the end returns that the nation's livestock farmers are getting.

This article in the Yorkshire Post highlights the plight of the average British pig farmer right now: Pig industry is facing another price fall crisis

As the article points out, the almost instant rise in feed prices has not and will not be met by a similarly swift increase in pork prices. "The trouble is, there is plenty of pork in the chain," they say.

Much of the pork in the chain is unfortunately imported. I was dismayed to literally have to meticulously search through the bacon and ham joints on offer during a rare trip to the local Sainsbury's on Monday to find British meat on offer.

Not that I'm singling Sainsbugs out for being the only one of the major supermarkets to be guilty of such nefarious practices you understand. The Co-op for all their eco-friendly buy British food ethic rhetoric have recently been serving up BOGOF's on Danish bacon.

Our chums on the continent are of course also feeling the pinch of rising feed prices, leading to increased slaughterings and pork being dumped onto our domestic market, depressing prices over here.

Buy British, whilst you still can.

Going Down: Chicken Tikka Masala

01/12/10 -- The totally un-British (and totally un-Indian also come to that) dish that for years has supposedly been Britain's favourite has apparently been relegated to third spot in the Premiership.

Yes, bland-as-buggery Chicken Tikka Masala fell to third in a recent survey by culinary appliance makers Kenwood I'm pleased to report.

I'm even more delighted to reveal that it was good old fashioned steak and chips that knocked the creamy yellow lumpy mush of it's perch. You can't get more British than that can you? Note I said chips not French Fries.

Second? Spag Bol, with pizza in fourth. Fancy a prawn cocktail to go with your steak for the classic British ultimate dining out experience of the 80's? You got one sunshine in fifth place.

Just to prove what a fantastic and diverge culinary isle we are tomato soup popped up in sixth.

Just in case you're interested, and I know that you are, braised lamb shank came in seventh, garlic bread eighth, chilli con carne ninth and lasagne tenth.

A little over heavy on the Italian theme there methinks, but at least they kept the McDonalds Happy Meal at bay.

Gutted to see no place for a full English breakfast mind, or even a token bacon butty.

EU Rapemeal Prices

01/12/10 -- Latest guide prices for EU rapemeal.

Basis FOB Lower Rhine in euros/metric tonne, with change from previous trading day:

May/FH Jul11

Please Return To Your Seats And Keep Your Seat Belts Fastened

01/12/10 -- New month, new money. So goes the saying. It certainly seems to be holding true this morning with the overnight Globex trade 16-18c higher on wheat, 10c up on beans and 5-6c firmer on corn.

Be careful what you wish for seems to sum things up in Australia as the potential bumper wheat crop in the east turns to mush. With the harvest running around 3-4 weeks behind schedule incessant rains are turning what looked like a crock of gold into a crock of something a whole lot less savoury.

"We have a natural disaster developing at the moment," says this observer. "Queensland already had a lot of downgraded grain. This is a cancer creeping south."

They don't have such problems in Western Australia, where the harvest is already about two-thirds complete. Here the damage was done months ago, with drought slashing wheat production by more than half to around 3.5 MMT from 8.25 MMT last season.

Meanwhile in America we have only 47% of the winter wheat crop rated good/excellent, the lowest in years and well below the 63% level of a year ago.

Fast forward to Argentina and Brazil where Mother Nature is also providing local farmers with what is looking like another difficult growing season. The kind of fast-maturing soybeans that they plant here need soaking rains on a regular basis, but they simply aren't getting them.

Highly-regarded private analyst Michael Cordonnier yesterday became the first to cut his soybean production estimates for the coming season, knocking 1 MMT off output in Argentina and 0.5 MMT off for Brazil. Combined he now sees production there 2.5 MMT less than the USDA's estimate last month.

Is Argentina gearing up for a repeat performance of two years ago when La Nina slashed soybean production to just 32 MMT?

Normally they would have 80-85% of their soybeans planted by now, currently it is little more than 50%, and what has gone into the ground is struggling to germinate with only scant rains and temperatures already pushing into the mid-90's.

Skip to Russia where winter plantings are down 20%. These crops were sown a month or more later than normal due to drought, and are now slipping into winter dormancy in a stunted state of development.

"Wheat having weak roots would be subject to damage from soil erosion. Moreover, when wheat is planted very late it has less time to achieve maximum hardiness to cold making winter kill more likely," warn Martell Crop Projections.

The world isn't well placed for a crop disaster of any significant magnitude in 2011. Australia's difficulties are beyond help. An escalation of the problems in the US, South America and/or Russia might mean significantly higher prices yet.

CBOT Close - Tuesday

30/11/10 -- Soybeans

Jan 11 soybeans closed at USD12.43, up 8 cents; Dec 10 soybean meal closed at USD338.60, up USD2.30; Dec 10 soybean oil closed at 50.65, up 78 points. Weather concerns about the South American crop continue with dryness in large parts of Argentina and Brazil. The USDA reported the sale of 165,000 MT of soybeans to unknown destinations. China is seen importing a record 55-57 MMT of soybeans in 2011, according to COFCO. Support also came from Malaysian palm oil futures rallying to 28-month highs.


Dec 10 corn closed at USD5.30, down 8 1/4 cents; Mar 11 corn closed at USD5.44, down 9 1/4 cents. Sharply lower crude oil prices were bearish for corn, as too was a Chinese statement dismissing ideas of significant corn imports in 2011. China also announced that it is re-exporting the 54,000 of US corn impounded for containing non-authorised GM strains back in September. That seems to be a signal that they aren't as desperate for any corn they can get as the market has been thinking.


Dec 10 CBOT wheat closed at USD6.50 1/4, unchanged; Dec 10 KCBT wheat closed at USD7.30, up 3 1/2 cents; Dec 10 MGEX wheat closed at USD7.40, up 3 1/2 cents. The world is shaping up for a shortage of quality wheat in 2011. Wet weather continues to hamper harvesting in eastern Australia. Canada's well publicised flooding problems earlier in the year also mean that a much higher percentage than normal of it's crop is feed wheat - the highest since 2004 in fact. Egypt's wheat tender results will be closely watched. Japan are also tendering for 209,000 MT of US wheat.

EU Wheat Close - Tuesday

30/11/10 -- EU wheat futures closed mixed Tuesday with Jan11 London wheat down GBP0.05 to GBP179.20/tonne and Nov11 London wheat down GBP1.10 to GBP149.90/tonne. Jan11 Paris wheat closed up EUR1.75 to EUR224.00/tonne and Nov11 Paris wheat was up EUR0.75 to EUR200.00/tonne.

The weak euro helped Paris wheat close mostly in positive territory bit pressured London wheat a little.

Egypt are tendering for wheat again, looking for various origin grain including French, US, Canadian, Australian and Argentinean. It will be interesting to see who scores as the cheapest this time round.

The EU hardly needs to fight to win any more export business than it already has at the moment.

Algeria are also tendering for at least 50,000 MT of wheat today, and Jordan are in the market for 100,000 MT each of wheat and barley.

Russian winter grain plantings are seen 20% down. Whilst spring sowings will increase it seems unlikely that they will compensate for a shortfall of this magnitude. It seems to be becoming increasingly likely that they will turn to importers in 2011, and are probably ruled out as a major force in the export market until 2012.

Early Call On Chicago

30/11/10 -- The overnight grains closed narrowly mixed with beans and corn generally 1-2c lower and wheat either side of unchanged.

The US dollar is firmer on risk aversion and crude oil is almost a dollar a barrel easier.

Not a huge amount of fresh news, the US winter wheat crop neither declined nor improved as far as crop conditions were concerned last night, remaining at 47% good/excellent. Historically that is pretty low.

China announced that it is re-exporting the 54,000 of US corn impounded for containing non-authorised GM strains back in September. COFCO say that this season's bumper corn crop will keep Chinese corn imports to a minimum in 2011, not what the trade had been expecting.

Soybean imports however will increase by 1-3 MMT next year to 55-57 MMT, they say.

Northern Argentina and southern Brazil still have dryness issues. Heavy rains in eastern Australia look like damaging wheat quality there, whilst the the harvest in WA is around two thirds complete.

The USDA have just announced the sale of 165,000 MT of soybeans to "unknown".

It is of course month-end so there could be some book-squaring going on today. For the month of November as a whole we stand with March CBOT wheat down 66 3/4 cents; March corn down 41 3/4 cents; Jan soybeans down 1 cent.

Early calls for this afternoon's CBOT session: corn and soybeans down 1-2c, wheat mixed.

EU Rapemeal Prices

30/11/10 -- Latest guide prices for EU rapemeal.

Basis FOB Lower Rhine in euros/metric tonne, with change from previous trading day:

May/FH Jul11

Welsh Police Warn On Sheep Theft

30/11/10 -- North Wales police have apparently issued warnings to local farmers after a spate of sheep thefts in the area.

They'll probably turn up in Ukraine or Pontypridd or somewhere, with their passports taken off them and forced to live a life of shame.

"I loved them sheep like they were my own sister, boyo," bleated one distraught Welsh hill farmer.

Full story here: She told me she was sixteen officer

The Early Vibe

30/11/10 -- For once the overnight grains aren't doing a lot, with wheat and soybeans trading either side of unchanged and corn a cent or two lower.

The pound is in danger of falling below 1.55 against a resurgent US dollar, whilst simultaneously threatening to break through 1.20 against a sick as a parrot euro.

We thus currently stand at both our lowest level against the dollar, and perversely our best against the euro, since mid-September.

That should underpin UK prices for imported raw materials like soymeal, and also potentially take potential imports of EU wheat into the UK one step closer to reality.

Whilst we certainly seem set for a winter of high-priced feed demand from the livestock sector has been understandably subdued. Whether that picks up significantly now that widespread snow has arrived remains to be seen.

And even if demand does pick up, will the money be there to pay the feed bill as the supermarkets continue to pass their own austerity measures straight down the line to their suppliers?

A long and difficult winter of discontent lies ahead methinks.

We're still dotting the i's and crossing the t's as far as this year's EU corn harvest is concerned. Toepfer peg it at 54.4 MMT, down 4% on last season's 56.6 MMT. The French crop is down more than 10% to 13.58 MMT, according to FranceAgriMer.

Algeria are tendering for at least 50,000 MT of wheat today, and Jordan are in the market for 100,000 MT each of wheat and barley.

China says that it will re-export 54,000 MT of US corn impounded in September due to a failure to conform to it's strict GM import regulations. The Chinese government sold only 19.5% of the corn on offer at it's regular weekly auction this week.

The Russian Ministry say that this season's grain harvest came in at 64.2 MMT in bunker weight, or 60.3 MMT clean weight. Demand will be 72-74 MMT they estimate, a reduction from last season's 77 MMT due to increased livestock slaughterings.

As they had already shipped around 3.5 MMT in the current marketing year before the export ban was introduced, we are looking at an approximate shortfall of around 16 MMT. This will either need to be imported and/or made up from existing carryover stocks from successive years of bumper harvests.

On paper they could cover that shortfall without importing anything, but Russian paperwork isn't, it would seem, worth the paper it's written on.

There is widespread talk of a deal already having been done to import 3 MMT of Argy corn in 2011, and of buying/swapping a similar quantity of grains with Ukraine/Kazakhstan (Russia supposedly have a surplus of milling wheat against a shortage of feed grain, and Ukraine have just harvested what they say is a bumper 12 MMT corn crop).

Russian winter plantings were completed on 15.4 million hectares, say the Ministry. That's 3.1 million, or 20%, down on last season's 18.5 million.

CBOT Close

29/11/10 -- Soybeans

Jan 11 soybeans closed at USD12.35, down 3 1/2 cents; Dec 10 soybean ,eal closed at USD336.30, down USD0.50; Dec 10 soybean oil closed at 49.87, down 3 points. The USDA export inspections report showed 48.948 million bushels inspected for export for the week ending 25/11 up 6.185 million from last week. A firm US dollar and some weekend rains in South America were negative, although traders were divided on the extent and likely benefit of the latter.


Dec 10 corn closed unchanged at USD5.38 1/4; Mar 11 corn closed at USD5.53 1/4, up 1/4 cent. The USDA export inspections showed 23.877 million bushels inspected for export for the week ending 25/11, a net of 529K bushels less than last week. Outside market influences were mixed with the dollar higher and the energy markets also higher. The USDA announced the sale of 120,000 MT of US corn to Mexico. Russia are said to be in the market to import grain, and specifically corn, from a variety of sources according to unconfirmed trade reports.


Dec 10 CBOT wheat closed at USD6.50 1/4, up 2 cents; Dec 10 KCBT wheat closed at USD7.26 1/2, up 5 3/4 cents; Dec 10 MGEX wheat closed at USD7.36 1/2, up 2 1/2 cents. The USDA export inspections report showed 20.818 million bushels inspected for export for the week ending 25/11, a net of 7.033 million bushels more than last week. Wheat continues to gain on dryness in the southern plains and wet conditions in eastern Australia. The USDA crop progress report showed winter wheat emerged was 94%, up 3 points from last week and 2 points ahead of average. Conditions were 47% good/excellent, unchanged from last week but a whopping 16 points below last year.

EU Wheat Close

29/11/10 -- Jan11 London wheat closed GBP2.25 higher at GBP179.25/tonne, with Nov11 up GBP1.00 to GBP151.00/tonne. Jan11 Paris wheat rose EUR4.00 to EUR222.25/tonne and Nov11 was EUR2.25 higher to EUR199.25/tonne.

It was 27th March 2008 that a front month closed higher than this for London wheat. Ideas that UK wheat exports are careering out of control are starting to mount. Nobody knows for sure how much wheat is still on merchants' books to ship this season, but it looks likely that Defra's predicted 1.3 MMT has already left the country.

Widespread talk now is that 2 MMT will be exported during the current marketing year, although that figure also seems too low based on what has been shipped already.

However, reports that it is now cheaper to ship feed wheat into the country rather than buy it domestically should put a limit on the extent of further price rises.

Russia is in the market to import around 3-5 MMT of grain, according to various media reports. Argentina are in the frame to be one of the main sellers, with Ukraine not far behind. That's what the gossip suggests.

Even so, they reputedly have almost 10 MMT in intervention stocks, and discussions are ongoing as to whether - and at what price - to release those onto the market.

Winter seems to have finally arrived in Ukraine, with crops in generally much better condition than twelve months ago.

Early Call On Chicago

29/11/10 -- The overnight grains closed mostly firmer but well off session highs, with beans around 2c higher, wheat up 4-5c and corn 2-3c firmer.

Korean tensions seem to be easing after South Korea cancelled tomorrow's planned military exercise on the island attacked by the North. China has been vocal in it's determination to prevent things getting out of hand.

Concerns over EU debt problems haven't gone away despite the EUR85 billion bailout for Ireland.

A significant part of Argentine is dry and getting worse after weekend forecast rains disappointed, with QT Weather saying that "this overly dry trend is going to continue for at least the next several weeks."

There are also weather concerns for Australian wheat with persistent rains in the east proving to be a mixed blessing, delaying the harvest and potentially harming quality.

The US wheat crop isn't out of the woods yet either. The USDA will report on crop conditions after tonight's close.

There is widespread talk of Russia actively negotiating to buy grain from Argentina, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and beyond. There are also lots of ideas that spring plantings will not be able to fully compensate for the shortfall in what should have, but didn't, get planted in the winter.

That would potentially seem to put Russia out of the export market, certainly as the kind of large volume seller we have become used to in the past few years, until the second half of 2012.

China is also being mooted as a potential suitor for Argentine corn. Some reports also suggest that they bought more US soybeans over the weekend.

The USDA have just announced the sale of 120,000 MT of corn to Mexico.

Early calls for this afternoon's CBOT session: Beans up 2-3 cents, corn up 1 to 2 cents, and wheat up 4 to 6 cents.

EU Rapemeal Prices

29/11/10 -- Latest guide prices for EU rapemeal.

Basis FOB Lower Rhine in euros/metric tonne, with change from previous trading day:

May/FH Jul11

Snow Patrol#2

29/11/10 -- As per normal the annual trip to Devon to see the family coincided with some pretty chaotic travelling conditions on the way home Sunday afternoon and evening.

Things seem to have been made worse by the "we love a good panic" media actively encouraging people to ditch the motorways in favour of attempting to get home via some nearby towns and villages and handy little B roads.

"Did you pack that thermos flask full of tea, six sleeping bags, a collapsible shovel and some hot bacon sandwiches like we told you? What, you didn't? Oh dear, you my friend are going to die. The emergency services can't get through to you as they are snowed in at a 25th wedding anniversary at the Tann Hill Inn. They might make it through to you by the weekend, although you will be stiff as a board by then having already asphyxiated yourself on your exhaust fumes and subsequently choked on frozen vomit.....unless you exit the A1M at the next exit and take the B3132 18 miles up a very steep hill to the sleepy hamlet of Sprocket. We've had Betty Swallocks from Sprocket on the phone and she says that it's clear as a bell up there."

That pretty much sums up the local radio station's helpful advice last night.

CBOT Close - Friday

26/11/10 -- Soybeans

Jan 11 soybeans closed at USD12.38 1/2, down 16 1/2 cents; Mar 11 soybeans closed at USD12.47, down 15 3/4 cents; Dec 10 soybean meal closed at USD336.80, down USD3.40,
Dec 10 Soybean Oil closed at 49.90, down 34 points. Weekly export sales were 673,900 MT, below trade estimates for sales of 850,000 MT to 1.2 MMT. Featuring in amongst this week's sales was 40,000 MT to the UK. This week's number however doesn't include the monster 780,000 MT that China bought earlier in the week. The strong US dollar didn't help soybean's cause in a subdued trading session following on from yesterday's Thanksgiving holiday.


Dec 10 corn closed at USD5.38 1/4, down 1/2 cent; Mar 11 corn closed at USD5.53, down 3/4 cent; May 11 corn closed at USD5.60 3/4, down 3/4 cent. Export sales were up 55 percent from the four week average at 823,000 MT for 2010/11 delivery. That was towards the top end of trade estimates for sales of 400-900,000 MT. The Rosario Grains Exchange estimate the Argentine corn crop at 21-22 MMT this season, down slightly from last year and significantly below the 25 MMT currently estimated by the USDA. Even so they are still an export force to be reckoned with, and are apparently in talks with Russia to supply them with up to 3 MMT of corn in 2011.


Dec 10 CBOT wheat closed at USD6.48 1/4, up 3/4 cent; Dec 10 KCBT wheat closed at USD7.20 3/4, up 1 3/4 cents; Dec 10 MGEX wheat closed at USD7.34, up 1 cent. Net weekly export sales were 745,200 MT, with Egypt taking 181,200 MT. Estimates were for sales of 500-800,000 MT. With Russian winter plantings significantly down there's a lot of pressure to expand spring sowing, however the President of the Russian Grain Union sees difficulties here due to a shortage of seed, fertilizer and machinery. SovEcon's early estimate on grain production in 2011 is 80 MMT, still far short of production of around 100 MMT in 2008 and 2009, and only just above the level of domestic consumption of around 77 MMT.

EU Wheat Close

26/11/10 -- EU wheat futures closed mostly higher Friday with Jan11 London wheat ending up GBP2.35 at GBP177.00/tonne and Nov11 London wheat GBP1.00 at GBP150.00/tonne. Jan11 Paris wheat closed unchanged at EUR218.25/tonne and Nov11 Paris wheat was up EUR1.00 to EUR197.00/tonne.

This was the highest close for a front month London wheat contract for more than 2 1/2 years as the gap between it and Paris wheat continues to erode.

Based on Friday's closing exchange rate of 1.1760 for the pound against the euro Jan11 London feed wheat's close was around EUR208/tonne, a discount of only EUR10/tonne to Paris milling wheat. Back in August that gap was EUR35/tonne.

Basically it is starting to look like this season's UK wheat crop has been oversold, based on the ferocious pace of exports this season.

EU wheat exports also continue at a pace, with Brussels on Thursday reporting that export licences for the marketing year to date are running almost 36% ahead of year ago levels.

A weak pound also supported UK prices, with the pound sinking two cents against the dollar on the day to end at 1.5580, its lowest in more than two months.