Chicago Crashes On Bearish Stocks Numbers

28/03/13 -- Soycomplex: The USDA surprised the market with a Mar 1st soybean stocks estimate fractionally under 1 billion bushels versus the average trade guess of 935 million and above even the highest figure in the hat which was 984 million. Although that is still a relatively low number it was high enough to send soybeans crashing, especially with spillover weakness from corn. The market largely ignored a planting intentions estimate that fell short of market expectations at 1.3 million below the average trade guess, and right at the bottom end of the range of forecasts. Right now we don't know how the USDA came up with this stocks number, we will have to wait until next month's WASDE report to get clues to that. Cynics would say that by simply "inventing" more soybean stocks they have given themselves some room to increase their US export forecast for 2012/13 next month, and still manage to cling to what looks like a self-imposed minimum carryout at the end of the season of 125 million bushels. Weekly soybean export sales of 674,100 MT were in line with trade estimates of 5-800 TMT and were, thankfully for the USDA, mostly new crop. Soybean shipments plus outstanding sales for the current marketing year are 35.67 MMT, less than 1 MMT away from the USDA target for the entire season, with more than 5 months of 2012/13 still left to go. At least China will be happy with today's developments - they took virtually all of this week's new crop sales. In other news the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange estimated the Argentine soybean crop at 48.5 MMT, unchanged from their previous forecast and well below the USDA's 53.0 MMT. They said that the harvest is around 6% complete. Rains in the forecast for Brazil may slow harvesting in the south and further delay soybean loadings. May 13 Soybeans closed at USD14.04 3/4, down 49 cents; Jul 13 Soybeans closed at USD13.85 1/2, down 45 1/2 cents; May 13 Soybean Meal closed at USD404.60, down USD18.50; May 13 Soybean Oil closed at 50.11, down 71 points. For the week May 13 beans were down almost 36 cents, with meal down nearly USD15 and oil shedding 32 points.

Corn: If the soybean market was surprised then the corn market was stunned by a Mar 1st stocks estimate of 5.4 billion bushels versus trade guesses of around 5 billion. This too was above the highest trade estimate and immediately sent corn crashing the daily 40 cent limit down where it duly stayed. Funds were said to have maybe finished up dumping 40,000 of their recently acquired length in corn and synthetic trade suggests that the market could be another 20 cents lower when trading resumes Sunday night/Monday morning. Unlike soybeans, the USDA does appear to have some legitimate options open to it to back up this stocks number however. Lower demand from the ethanol sector for one, this week's data from the Energy Dept showed production below the level needed to hit the USDA's target for the season for the tenth week running. Exports could also be cut again, this week's sales of a combined 314,000 MT were in line with trade estimates but hardly impressive. Argentine corn was said to be almost USD50/tonne cheaper than US corn on an FOB basis earlier in the week. The USDA's planting intentions estimate of 97.3 million acres for corn was bang in line with the average trade guess and a post 1936 record, so that offered little support going forward. Using this estimate Reuters ran a report saying that the US could produce a record 14.6 billion bushels corn crop this year IF the USDA's baseline projected yield of 163.6 bu/acre could be achieved, and assuming normal abandonment levels. Although not too many would want to bet on 163.6 bu/acre this year right now. The Buenos Aires Grains Exchange said that the Argentine corn crop would come in at 25.0 MMT this year, unchanged from their previous estimate, and versus 26.5 MMT from the USDA. They said that 18.3% of the Argentine corn crop has been harvested versus 14.5% a week ago. May 13 Corn closed at USD6.95 1/4, down 40 cents; Jul 13 Corn closed at USD6.76, down 40 cents. May 13 was down 31 cents on the week.

Wheat: The wheat market crashed lower on spillover weakness from corn, although it too had it's own little bearish story with a Mar 1st stocks figure of 1.23 billion bushels. That was above the average trade estimate and right at the top end of the range of guesses. For plantings the USDA gave us an all wheat area of 56.4 million acres, which was bang on the average trade guess and in the middle of the range of suggestions of 55.6-57.3 million. Weekly export sales for wheat beat trade estimates of 3-600 TMT at a combined 828,600 MT. Recently rumoured business to Brazil (181,500 MT) was amongst the old crop sales, and China (172,000 MT) took a slug of the new crop. Old crop sales need to now average 321 TMT/week to hit the USDA projection for the 2012/13 season. This week's old crop sales of 580,300 MT easily beat that. On the tender front Tunisia is tendering for 42 TMT of optional origin durum wheat for May shipment. Iran bought 350 TMT of Australian wheat in a tender for 50 TMT over the weekend. Malaysia also bought Aussie wheat this week for June shipment. India are back in the market offering up 250 TMT for tender for April shipment. A cold snap in the US this week may have damaged some winter wheat crops but it is too early to tell. Arctic conditions across much of Europe may also have caused some damage on unprotected crops, meanwhile Spain is at risk from excessive wetness. Heavy snow in Ukraine will have brought fieldwork to a halt for the next couple of weeks. MDA CropCast upped their forecast for Australian wheat production in 2013/14 from 22.6 MMT to 23.3 MMT. May 13 CBOT Wheat closed at USD6.87 3/4, down 49 cents; May 13 KCBT Wheat closed at USD7.26 3/4, down 47 1/4 cents; May 13 MGEX Wheat closed at USD7.80 1/4, down 32 3/4 cents. For the week Chicago wheat fell 43 cents, Kansas wheat was down 34 1/4 cents, and Minneapolis lost 26 1/4 cents.

EU Grains Slump On USDA Numbers

28/03/13 -- Activity in EU wheat futures was quiet for most of the day, awaiting input from the USDA via stocks and acreage estimates due late during European trade at 16.00 GMT. A very bearish USDA stocks number saw nearby Chicago corn futures collapse limit down, dragging everything else with it, including EU grains late in the session.

At the close London wheat closed with front month May 13 down GBP4.75/tonne at GBP199.25/tonne and with new crop Nov 13 GBP3.45/tonne easier to GBP185.80/tonne. May 13 Paris wheat was down EUR8.00/tonne to EUR238.75/tonne.

For the holiday shortened week that puts May 13 London wheat down GBP2.25/tonne versus last Friday, with Nov 13 up GBP0.10/tonne and May 13 Paris wheat down EUR2.50/tonne. Before the USDA came out London wheat was on target for the best close for a front month since mid-February.

On the face of it the USDA stock figures show that less corn and wheat was fed domestically in the Dec/Feb quarter than the trade anticipated. That would appear to be in direct conflict to their decision to increase domestic corn feed usage by 100 million bushels earlier in the month with the release of the March WASDE report.

Whilst there has been a lot of talk of feeders and ethanol plants in the US switching away from corn, if that was responsible for today's surprise then you'd have expected wheat stocks to come in lower than anticipated. They didn't, they were right at the top end of trade expectations too.

The has been a lot of talk of increased livestock liquidation in the US due to high feed prices, so maybe today's stocks numbers are a reflection of this? Only time will tell.

Fresh news was limited prior to the USDA statements, with European traders discussing mixed prospects for the 2013 harvest.

Concerns for crops in the UK and northern France are mounting as winter shows no sign of turning to spring just yet. "March 2013 was one of the coldest in recent years, and despite a dry period at the beginning, from mid-month there was a return to wet weather with an average of 58mm (up to 26 March)," say ADAS.

Spring cereals are only 15% planted on a national level, normally this would be 50% by the end of March, although there has been more progress on the lighter land in eastern counties where up to 60% of planned area has been drilled, they note.

Only around 70-75% of the planned winter wheat area was in by the end of November and the winter barley area is thought to be 10-25% down too, they say. "Late drilling, slugs, wet soils and latterly pigeons have resulted in a high failure rate in winter oilseed rape crops, with up to 20% expected to be replaced," they add.

There are worries over crop conditions, particularly for rapeseed, in France too. This had seen front month May 13 Paris rapeseed rally to an intra-day high of EUR487.75/tonne, for a rise of more than 6% in less than a fortnight, with it's sights set on closing higher tonight for the eighth session in a row. Those plans went up in smoke following the USDA numbers, with the market settling EUR5.50/tonne lower at EUR477.25/tonne at the close.

"Despite the industry expectation that the UK spring barley area would surge in 2013 following a drop in winter plantings, the European barley area is expected to be lower. Coceral estimates the total EU-28 barley area in 2013 at 12.226 million ha – a 10% fall on 2012," say the HGCA. This could provide a welcome boost for spring barley demand, should spring ever get here.

In the US there's been support for the wheat market earlier this week following three nights of freezing temperatures, although Martell Crop Projections say that winter wheat there isn't generally mature enough to suffer serious damage. "Another cold wave is predicted Monday night, April 1. This would not be a 'frost' but a hard freeze in Kansas, northern Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle. Lows in the 20s F are predicted. When a hard freeze occurs in the flowering stage, wheat damage is severe and irreversible. Kansas wheat development is not far enough along (still jointing) for severe damage to occur," they say.

Elsewhere in the US, much like Europe, things are also running late. "Northern cold and a heavy snow-pack threatens spring wheat planting. North Dakota producers anticipate a delayed planting campaign from a thick snow pack and delayed melting. The average snow depth March 25 was 12 inches, compared to no snow at all in 2012 on the same date. Growers do not expect to begin fieldwork until April 22, and planting is only anticipated to begin May 10. Ordinarily wheat seeding begins in late April," they add.

The USDA Numbers

28/03/13 -- The USDA numbers are out, and here's the gist of it. Much larger corn stocks than anticipated at 5.4 billion bushels, that's higher than the highest trade estimate. Bean stocks of 1 billion bushels were also above the highest trade estimate and wheat stocks of 1.23 billion were right at the top end of expectations.

On the acreage front we got a small reduction in soybean plantings from last year, rather than the big hike to all time highs that the trade was expecting. Corn and wheat acres came in bang on the average trade forecast.

For corn that stocks number is VERY bearish, that was the number that everyone was looking for, and CBOT futures quickly went limit down on the news. Wheat was 35 cents down and soybeans 25 cents lower just after 16.00 GMT.

The soybean stocks number is bearish, but the plantings forecast is a bit friendly, but there should be plenty of South American kit still kicking around come the 2013 US soybean harvest.

Wheat stocks are also bearish, the only thing that there's more of in the US this year than there was last year. Acreage is neutral.

Planting intentions:

Mln Acres
Avg Est
USDA 2012
All Wheat

Mar 1st 2013 Stocks:

Bln bushels
Avg Est
USDA Mar 12

My Call On The USDA Numbers

28/03/13 -- I'm getting my eye in for the Grand National next week, with a bit of telepathetic communication with me old spirit guide mucker from beyond the grave Septic Peg. It's 15.21 GMT as I type, for any non-believers out there. The USDA stocks numbers will be bearish on corn and wheat and a bit friendly for soybeans, although the latter may get dragged down by the former.

That's the feeling in the old water this afternoon folks. I knew I shouldn't have had that pickled onion at lunchtime. Anyway, I'm combining Easter and April Fools day this year - I'm sending the kids out to look for eggs I haven't hidden.

USDA Weekly Export Sales

28/03/13 -- The USDA's weekly export sales report came in in line with expectations for corn and soybeans, and better than anticipated for wheat.

Soybean sales of a combined 674,100 MT were mostly new crop, with only 66,400 MT of that total being old crop. The new crop sales were almost exclusively for China (601,000 MT).

Corn sales of a combined 314,000 MT on the other hand were mostly for old crop (295,100 MT). Japan (133,700 MT, including 28,600 MT switched from unknown destinations) and China (114,200 MT) were the main buyers of the old crop.

Wheat sales of 580,300 MT of old crop and 248,300 MT of new crop beat trade estimates for sales of a combined 3-600 TMT. Recently rumoured business to Brazil (181,500 MT) was amongst the old crop sales, and China (172,000 MT) took a slug of the new crop.

Wheat shipments plus outstanding sales now total 25.29 MMT, meaning that old crop sales need to now average 321 TMT/week to hit the USDA projection for the 2012/13 season. Corn shipments plus outstanding sales are 15.17 MMT, meaning that old crop sales need to now average 319 TMT/week to hit the USDA projection for the 2012/13 season. Soybean shipments plus outstanding sales are 35.67 MMT, less than 1 MMT away from the USDA target for the season, meaning that old crop sales need to only average 40 TMT/week to hit that USDA projection.

Actual Sales
674,100 MT
500-800 TMT
828,600 MT
300-600 TMT
314,000 MT
200-400 TMT

EU Rapemeal Price Rally Continues

28/03/13 -- Rapemeal prices on the continent continue their meteoric rise and are sharply higher again this morning. Apr 13 is up EUR14/tonne since Monday, with May/Jul 13 up EUR17/tonne and new crop Nov 13/Jan 14 up EUR12/tonne as the extended winter period in which we find ourselves continues.

Latest guide prices for EU rapemeal today, basis FOB Lower Rhine in euros/metric tonne, with change from previous trading session:


The Morning Vibe

28/03/13 -- Noticed anything funny recently? I have. The regular gaggle of Septics that I follow on Twitter seem to have been getting up and tweeting remarkably early. Insomniacs all over America appear to have been on Twitter at ridiculous o'clock in the morning. What's up with them I thought? Then, last week I noticed that the USDA's weekly export sales report that normally comes out at 13.30 UK time was getting posted about on Twitter well before 1 o'clock.

The sneaky old Septic Tanks have only gone and moved their clocks forward more than two weeks ago now. On Sunday Mar 10th at 2am to be precise. I don't recall there usually being a 3 week gap between "us" and "them" changing the clocks, do you?

Anyway, the upshot of all that would seem to be that as we are still stuck firmly in the winter here in Europe, then today's eagerly awaited USDA report on acreage and stocks will actually come out BEFORE we've all got our coats on and are ready to go home. At 16.00 GMT to be precise. At least I think that's correct, although with all the different time zones in America I could be talking entire bollocks (not for the first time I hear you cry). No doubt somebody will email me to tell me if I am.

Meanwhile, now that we've noticed, we can keep a sneaky eye out to see if the weekly export sales report comes out at 12.30 GMT, if it does then we are onto a winner. Probably. Right now that's cleared up what else is going on this morning....

First off this is an interesting read: 100 new jobs for Humber region in £700m biomass boom in what is almost certainly the first time that The Grimsby Telegraph has had anything interesting to print other than the price of fish in some considerable time.

ABP it would seem are to built a new terminal at Immingham Docks specifically designed to handle wood pellet shipments for Drax.

Whilst you're on there maybe you'd like to treat the missus and avail yourself of a couple of tickets to see the Lee Evans Tribute Night at the Queens? Early bird tickets are only a fiver. That's right there's a bloke doing a tribute act of that totally unfunny sweaty oik Lee Evans. Christ on a bike, is this what it's come to? Somebody pretending to be Lee Evans, pretending to be Norman Wisdom, pretending to be Mr Pitkin? The Albanian Quarter in Grimsby will be rolling in the aisles. On their own I imagine. 

Back in the real world, the overnight grains are doing nothing to get excited about this morning. Any positioning ahead of the USDA has already been done by the looks of it.

MDA CropCast have upped their forecast for Australian wheat production in 2013/14 from 22.6 MMT to 23.3 MMT, although that's still a little below the 24.0 MMT estimate from the USDA's Canberra FAS office yesterday.

Their US winter wheat production estimate is unchanged at 1.829 billion bushels. "Very cold temperatures returned to the southwestern Plains this past week, which resulted in some damage to jointing wheat. Temperatures should moderate a bit this week, though, and freeze threats will lower," they say.

In Europe they highlight persistent rains in southwestern Spain "maintaining wetness and high disease threats for wheat."

All the markets are closed tomorrow. Europe remains shut on Monday, but Chicago will be open as normal.

Next Monday also sees the resumption of the USDA's regular weekly crop progress reports released after the close.

Chicago Rallies Post USDA

27/03/13 -- Soycomplex: Beans rose to 2 week highs on old crop and 3 week highs on new crop heading into tomorrow's USDA reports. As well as prospective planting intentions and Mar 1st stocks, we also get the usual weekly export sales numbers, for beans the trade is expecting sales of a combined 500-800 TMT for both crop years. Old crop sales remember are already at 97% of the USDA target for the season. Lanworth Inc estimated the Argentine soybean crop at 50.5 MMT and the Brazilian bean crop at 81.1 MMT, both were unchanged from their previous estimates. Agroconsult estimated the Brazilian crop considerably higher at 84.4 MMT versus a previous figure of 84.2 MMT. Harvesting in Mato Grosso is almost over with slightly disappointing yields, although these are expected to improve as the harvest progresses further south. The range of estimates for tomorrow's Mar 1st stocks report is 905-984 million bushels, with the average guess of 935 million. Soybean planting intentions are expected to be between 77.0-79.7 million acres, with an average guess of 78.4 million. Funds were judged to have been net buyers of around 2-3,000 soybean contracts on the day. May 13 Soybeans closed at USD14.53 3/4, up 6 cents; Jul 13 Soybeans closed at USD14.31, up 4 1/2 cents; May 13 Soybean Meal closed at USD423.10, up USD2.90; May 13 Soybean Oil closed at 50.82, unchanged.

Corn: The market shrugged off disappointing ethanol production numbers to press on to highs not seen since early February. The weekly ethanol grind was down 4,000 barrels/day from last week to 805,000 bpd, the tenth week in a row that it's failed to reach the USDA goal for demand of 4.5 billion bushels from the sector. Instead the market is concentrating on adverse weather conditions in the US, delaying planting and possibly even causing some damage to early planted corn in the south. South Korea's NOFI passed on a tender to import corn, buying feed wheat instead due to price. POET said that they will use an undisclosed percentage of sorghum to partially replace corn at it's largest ethanol production facility in SD. Lanworth Inc estimated the Argentine corn crop at 25.5 MMT and the Brazilian crop at 76.4 MMT, both unchanged from their previous estimates. They peg the Ukraine corn crop at 26.4 MMT, up 26% from a year ago. The Chinese crop is estimated at 216 MMT, up 4% from a year ago. Argentine corn offers are said to be around USD40/tonne cheaper than US corn FOB the Gulf of Mexico. That may mean another disappointing weekly export sales report tomorrow, for which trade guesses for corn are 2-400 TMT. The range of estimates for tomorrow's Mar 1st stocks report is 4.916–5.248 billion bushels, with the average guess at 5.03 billion. Corn planting intentions are expected to be between 95.7-98.5 million acres, with an average guess of 97.3 million. Fund buying was estimated at 4-6,000 contracts today. May 13 Corn closed at USD7.35 1/4, up 5 cents; Jul 13 Corn closed at USD7.16, up 3 3/4 cents.

Wheat: Short covering saw wheat close higher on all three exchanges. Three successive nights of sub-zero temperatures may have caused some damage to wheat on the Plains is the talk. Iraq bought 350 TMT of Australian wheat in a tender that closed at the weekend it was revealed. South Korea bought 33,000 MT of Australian wheat for June shipment. The USDA's Canberra office pegged Australian wheat production in 2013/14 at 24.0 MMT, up 8.5% from 22.1 MMT in 2012/13. The have exports next season at 20.0 MMT, but noted that exports this season may not reach the USDA's target of 19.0 MMT due to logistical problems at the ports, projecting instead a figure of 18.0 MMT. Lanworth Inc estimated the Russian wheat crop this year at 50.4 MMT, up by a third on production in 2012 and an increase on their previous forecast of 49.8 MMT. The Ukraine 2013/14 wheat crop was estimated at 23.3 MMT, up 48% on last year but unchanged from their previous estimate. Jordan rejected offers on tenders to import 100 TMT each of wheat and barley due to price. Japan seeks 120 TMT of feed wheat and 200 TMT of feed barley in a tender for July shipment. Trade estimates for tomorrow's weekly export sales report for wheat are 3-600 TMT. The range of estimates for tomorrow's Mar 1st stocks report is 1.010-1.238 billion bushels, with the average guess at 1.167 billion. The US all wheat planted area is expected to be between 55.6-57.3 million acres, with an average guess of 56.4 million. Funds were estimated to have bought around 2,000 Chicago wheat contracts on the day. May 13 CBOT Wheat closed at USD7.36 3/4, up 5 1/4 cents; May 13 KCBT Wheat closed at USD7.74, up 5 1/2 cents; May 13 MGEX Wheat closed at USD8.13, up 2 1/2 cents.

EU Wheat Rises On Weather Concerns, Demand

27/03/13 -- EU wheat futures closed firmer on fears over potential crop damage in Europe and the US caused by the uncooperative weather, short-covering ahead of tomorrow's USDA reports and continued strong demand.

On the day, London wheat closed with front month May 13 up GBP2.50/tonne to GBP204.00/tonne and new crop Nov 13 up GBP2.75/tonne at GBP189.25/tonne. May 13 Paris wheat was EUR1.75/tonne firmer at EUR246.75/tonne.

"Field moisture has deteriorated sharply in the past 2 weeks with hardly any rainfall in the southern Great Plains. Texas is particularly dry, with growers reporting 75% short-very short topsoil moisture. Nearly 50% of topsoil moisture was short or very short in Oklahoma and Kansas wheat," said Martell Crop Projections.

"Emerging drought is bad timing for wheat development as jointing is getting underway, demanding good moisture to support rapid vertical growth in wheat. Oklahoma wheat was already 40% jointing, while Kansas wheat was just beginning to joint. Wheat development in Oklahoma was set back by a hard freeze last week. Lasting damage in wheat does not occur in the jointing stage, though growth would be set back. If a hard freeze coincides with flowering, the damage is permanent and severe. In 2009, an April freeze produced devastating losses in Oklahoma wheat, with crop production falling more than 50% below the previous growing season," they noted.

Meanwhile in Texas, temperatures over the past three nights have dipped low enough to potentially cause "severe injury to wheat in advanced stages of growth," one agronomist said.

In Europe, crops in the UK and France in particular, are also under threat. The EU Commission today cut their soft wheat production forecast here from 131.1 MMT to 129.8 MMT, although that still represents an increase of 5% on last year's drought-hit crop. Even so, production potential has been declining steadily across a difficult winter. In their first look into 2013/14 back in December Strategie Grains were originally forecasting EU soft wheat production rising 9% to 134.2 MMT this year.

Wheat's loss is however barley's potential gain, with the EU Commission increasing their forecast for 2013/14 barley output from 54.6 MMT to 56.0 MMT, and up 4% versus 53.9 MMT last year.

Despite paring back it's soft wheat production estimate, the Commission increased their 2013/14 forecast for exports of the same from 16.5 MMT to 16.9 MMT in the face of continued strong demand.

Brussels issued 426 TMT worth soft wheat export licenses this past week, bringing the marketing year to date total to 15.12 MMT. All wheat exports now stand at over 16.0 MMT and only need to average 266 TMT/week to hit the USDA's projection of 19.5 MMT for the current campaign.

At home, Defra tweaked our domestic grain supply and demand numbers a little for 2012/13. They increased UK wheat imports from the 2.19 MMT forecast in January to 2.26 MMT, which marks a 149% increase versus 2011/12. Corn imports were also nudged higher from 1.19 MMT to 1.29 MMT, up 30% year-on-year.

Wheat for human and industrial usage in the UK was reduced slightly due to "lower than previously forecast flour production, further evidence of corn use for ethanol and the fact that new bioethanol capacity is yet to be fully operational," they said. Most of that reduced offtake is switched to feed usage though, due to the cold and wet March leading to an increase in compound feed demand, they added.

In other news, Russia sold a further 60,895 of intervention grain at what has become their regular twice weekly offering. That takes the total volume sold since October to 2.546 MMT, interestingly of that 1.8 MMT of the grain sold has been from the 2008 harvest. Almost 95% of the 2.546 MMT of grain sales has been wheat.

Agritel report that domestic Russian wheat prices have fallen from EUR300/tonne to EUR265/tonne during March due to the large inverse between old and new crop prices. Confidence in a fairly decent crop in 2013 seems to be gradually improving. Lanworth Inc today increased their forecast for Russian wheat production in 2013 from 49.8 MMT to 50.4 MMT, a rise of a third on output last year. They are also pretty bullish on Ukraine, where they peg this year's corn crop at 26.4 MMT, up 26% from 2012's 20.9 MMT.

The Rumour Mill

27/03/13 -- Heard via Twitter yesterday that whilst Cypriot citizens have been queueing up at the ATM's to withdraw the meagre EUR100/day that they are allowed to have that there may have been some slightly larger withdrawals going on behind the scenes.

Reuters report that the two banks at the centre of the crisis - Cyprus Popular Bank, also known as Laiki, and Bank of Cyprus - both have branches in London which have remained open during this crisis. Crucially neither have apparently stopped or placed limits on money withdrawals during this time.

"Bank of Cyprus also owns 80 percent of Russia's Uniastrum Bank, which put no restrictions on withdrawals in Russia," Reuters add.

The suggestion on Twitter has been that much more of the large depositors cash may have been quietly syphoned off whist this whole sorry saga has been going on via one of these loopholes than is commonly realised.

Egypt Talking Tough

27/03/13 -- In what looks like a ludicrous and transparently desperate rant Egypt's Minister of Supply has told (probably shouted actually, with a lot of finger jabbing by the looks of it) the FT that the cash-strapped country will buy wheat from "whoever gives us payment facilities" in what looks like an attempt to cadge a bit, or should that be a lot, of credit.

Puffing out his chest the guy goes on to basically say "if you won't help us out with some slack payment terms now then you can stick your wheat up your arse and don't darken our door again." Presumably this now means that the list of Egypt's approved suppliers is now a list of all the countries in the world? Iran, North Korea, Somali pirates, anyone prepared to wait a bit for their cash can now join this not as exclusive as it was club?

That's not all though, the loon goes on to say essentially that Egypt doesn't need wheat, it has plenty of the stuff, so don't bother trying to pull a fast one, we're in control, we've got a record harvest coming anyway so we're not really bothered whether we buy your stinking wheat or we don't. I'm Roman Abramovich's body guard me, feel them muscles. You're not the Daddy. I'm the Daddy. Kiss my feet or I rip your stinking head off, innit.

There was no mention of insisting on only 60,000 MT cargoes with one loading port any more though, I think he might be negotiable on that point now.

You can read the full rant in the FT Come on then...

EU Rapemeal Prices Up Again

27/03/13 -- Rapemeal prices on the continent are sharply higher for a second day running on tight soymeal availability and fears of crop damage in Europe. Seed prices are now at levels not seen since the end of November, say Agritel. They comment that a downward revision to acreage estimates in France could be on the cards due to winter damage.

Guide prices, basis FOB Lower Rhine in euros/metric tonne, with change from previous session:


Chicago Market - Positioning Ahead Of USDA Report

26/03/13 -- Soycomplex: Talk of lower than expected yields out of Brazil's top producing state of Mato Grosso was supportive. Local analysts IMEA cut their production estimate for the state from 24.1 MMT to 23.6 MMT citing heavy rains at harvest time as the reason for the loss. Harvesting there is now 92.6% done, they added. Oil World estimated the Brazilian crop at 81.3 MMT versus a previous estimate of 82.0 MMT. They also cut their forecast in Argentina from 50.0 MMT to 48.5 MMT. Meanwhile loading delays in Brazil's Santos port are said to be around 27-30 days, and double that in Paranagua. AgRural said 60% of the Brazilian bean crop has been harvested, up from 52% a week ago but fractionally behind 61% a year ago. The trade is gearing up for Thursday's stocks and planting intentions report. Oil World estimated Mar 1st US soybean stocks at 1.032 billion bushels versus a Dow Jones average guess of 947 million and a Bloomberg survey forecast of 935 million. US soybean plantings for the 2013 harvest are expected to be at record levels around 78.4 million acres, which explains the large inverse between old and new crop. Funds were estimated to have been net buyers of around 3,000 soybean contracts on the day. May 13 Soybeans closed at USD14.47 3/4, up 10 1/2 cents; Jul 13 Soybeans closed at USD14.26 1/2, up 9 cents; May 13 Soybean Meal closed at USD420.20, up USD2.40; May 13 Soybean Oil closed at 50.82, up 38 points.

Corn: After a fortnight of steadily rising corn prices, and renewed fund buying, a bit of consolidation and profit-taking ahead of Thursday's reports was maybe only to be expected. Trade estimates for the Mar 1st stocks report sees US corn inventories at around 5 billion bushels, a 15-year low. Various estimates for US corn plantings this spring range from an unchanged 97.2 million acres to a 76-year high of 98.5 million acres. Again, this explains the sizable market inverse. Michael Cordonnier estimated the Brazilian corn crop at 74.0 MMT, unchanged from his previous forecast. He pegged output in Argentina at 24.0 MMT, also unchanged from previously. He said that Argentine corn harvest is about 15% complete versus 19% a year ago. Argentine corn is said to be currently being shipped into the US east coast. For all the talk of excessive wetness in the Deep South and Delta delaying early corn plantings, Louisiana is said to be 86% complete versus the 5-year average of 58% at this time. Mississippi corn planting is 37% complete versus 21% for the 5-year average. Georgia is behind though at 18% versus 29% normally. Tomorrow we get the latest weekly US ethanol grind data. Production has lagged the level needed to meet USDA targets for the last nine weeks. Funds were estimated to have been net sellers in corn to the tune of 4-5,000 contracts on the day. May 13 Corn closed at USD7.30 1/4, down 3 cents; Jul 13 Corn closed at USD7.12 1/4, down 3 cents.

Wheat: Wheat got support from talk of possible damage to winter wheat on the Plains. "Freezing weather in Oklahoma may have damaged wheat plants that already were hurt by the worst drought since the 1930's. Temperatures overnight dropped to 15 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 9 Celsius) near Guymon, in the Oklahoma panhandle, National Weather Service data show," reported Bloomberg. Despite some improvements to crop conditions recently, the USDA yesterday reported that we still have more wheat in the top three winter wheat states of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas rated as poor/very poor than good/excellent. Kansas has 31% of the crop rated poor/very poor versus 29% a week ago, Oklahoma is 33% poor/very poor versus 37% a week ago and Texas is 47% poor/very poor versus 44% a week ago. The trade is expecting a US all wheat acreage of around 56.4 million acres on Thursday, with Mar 1st stocks at around 1.18 billion bushels. Reuters reported that despite dangerously low wheat stocks Egypt is unlikely to tender to buy wheat internationally before the end of the current financial year (which only closes at the end of June). UkrAgroConsult estimated Ukraine’s 2013 grain crop at 53.3 MMT with the wheat crop accounting for 21.07 MMT of that versus the USDA's estimate of 15.76 MMT in 2012. May 13 CBOT Wheat closed at USD7.31 1/2, up 4 1/4 cents; May 13 KCBT Wheat closed at USD7.68 1/2, up 9 1/2 cents; May 13 MGEX Wheat closed at USD8.10 1/2, up 5 1/4 cents.

EU Wheat Mostly Cautiously Higher Amidst Market Uncertainty

26/03/13 -– EU grains were mostly cautiously higher amidst market uncertainty surrounding the sketchy "details" of the Cyprus bailout, and what the implications might be for the rest of Europe - and indeed commodities. The trade also seems to be treading water ahead of Thursday's USDA stocks and planting intention numbers. If that isn't enough uncertainty for you then add in unusually cold and wet weather across Europe and the US. Is that good or bad for winter sown crops, and what are the implications for spring grains? The jury is out on all of the above.

London wheat closed with front month May 13 unchanged at GBP201.50/tonne and new crop Nov 13 GBP0.45/tonne firmer at GBP186.50/tonne. May 13 Paris wheat was EUR1.75/tonne higher at EUR245.00/tonne.

Yesterday's early forecasts on European yields from the EU Commission's MARS unit painted a picture of general well being, although it has to be said that their prediction of a 20% recovery in UK wheat yields back to "normal" levels of over 8 MT/ha this year was largely greeted with derision. The problem is, one look at that number immediately undermines the credibility of all the others, leaving us no further down the line towards some accurate production forecasts for 2013 than we were last week.

Agritel say that the very heavy weekend snow that Ukraine got will mean no more fieldwork for 2-3 weeks in much of the country, and that could set spring barley yields back 10-15%, they estimate.

Russian spring grain plantings meanwhile are less than 1% complete, so it is very early days there. There is however a sizable question mark hanging over winter wheat potential. A very dry autumn and early winter followed summer drought in Russia. "That means fields are very dry through a deep layer. It is very hard to turn around wheat under these circumstances," say Martell Crop Projections.

"It is the same story in the US Great Plains, with a super-dry fall almost always having a negative bearing on yields. There are rare exceptions to the rule, when ultra-heavy winter rainfall occurs. That happened only once in the Great Plains to turn wheat potential around, and it took 150-200% of normal winter rainfall to improve wheat potential," they add.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that crops in the North Caucasus and Southern Region of Russia can expect average production at best in 2013, and this at a time when domestic carryover stocks from 2012/13 will be at an absolute minimum. Russia sold 55,727 MT of intervention grain in it's now regular twice a week tender today, taking the total sold since sales began in October to 2.485 MMT.

Surprisingly then, a report on Reuters suggests that Russian wheat prices have now fallen low enough to make them competitive again on the international stage, and that a further 3-400,000 MT of exports might be possible in the Apr/Jun period.

Similar conditions to those in Russia appear to exist in Romania where this year's cereal production will be "good, if not great" according to the Ag Ministry there.

Another Reuters report paints a very bleak picture of the developing situation in Egypt, where bakers are threatening to go on strike if the government doesn't cough up 400 million Egyptian pounds in unpaid subsidies that they say is owed to them. The report suggests that Egypt could be absent from the international tender market until after the current financial year ends (at the end of June). After that they hope to secure a USD4.8 billion loan from the IMF, which may enable them to fund further wheat purchases on the international stage in the second half of the calendar year.

Meanwhile government forecasts for a record wheat crop of around 9.5 MMT this year are not realistic, traders say. Neither are the Egyptian government's plans to procure 4.5 MMT of their wheat requirements on the local market versus only 2.4-3.7 MMT normally, as Egyptian wheat quality simply isn't high enough, the report states.

In other news, China are said to have wasted no time in welcoming Australian rapeseed back into the fold after four years in the wilderness. Two state-owned companies have bought 4-5 cargoes of Australian rapeseed, according to media reports, having forced themselves to almost exclusively rely on Canada for their import needs in recent years. Oil World today raised their forecast for Australian rapeseed production this year to a record 3.7 MMT, with India's output also seen sharply higher, up 24% to 7.2 MMT. EU output is seen broadly unchanged at 19.24 MMT.

Golf Competition

26/03/13 -- Golf, some say it's a good walk spoilt, and others just that it's crap. Others again, like past the sell-by date has beens Tarbie, Brucie and Kenny Lynch seem to like it.

I've never seen the attraction myself, having been to far too many golf dinners where 95% of the attendees discuss in great, intricate and mind numbingly boring detail how unlucky they were to end up in the water at the 14th, the one with the tricky little dog-leg to the right.

Well despite my blind indifference, I'm willing to wager that quite a few of you reading this are regular niblick fondlers.

That's why I'm giving you the chance to win* a luxury golf break at a 5 star holiday let available for the 2013 British Open Golf Championships this summer (assuming we get one) Jul 14-21. Located in luxury self-catering holiday accommodation that sleeps 8 in North Berwick with the world renowned Muirfield championship course in Gullane right on your doorstep. Not literally for Christ's sake, I mean you might have to walk a bit you idle buggers, but come on you can't travel everywhere in one of them buggy things you know. I've seen you, at the airport, with you bad leg. There's nothing wrong with your leg, bone idle you are. Straight through to the front of the queue at check-in and then you hop up the stairs like a spring lamb you idle get. Anyway, I digress...

Wow, I can just see your 5 iron rising at the prospect of winning* this fabulous and exclusive prize. You'd have to be insane not to enter, right? Come on Nogger, just tell us what we have to do, I hear you implore.

Well, like you my dear reader, it's simple. All you have to do to enter is go here: I KNOW MY NIBLICKS and have a look at the website. If you fancy entering the draw to win* this luxury week away for the 2013 British Open Golf Championships then simply email the guy, sort out a price, agree to pay that price and with a bit of luck you might win* the holiday. But HURRY, because once it's gone, it's gone. There's probably a queue of idle fat buggers like you desperate to win* this MAGNIFICENT prize.

Terms and conditions apply, obviously. Like you have to tell him that you heard about it on Nogger's Blog. And he doesn't want any Cypriot bankers drafts, I imagine. Solid payment up front in Sterling would be good, but as he's a Jock he might accept the funny money that they use up there as well.

Best of luck.

*Win: verb 1. to finish first in a race, ie to be the first to agree to pay the price. I mean you didn't think I was giving it away did you? You muppet.

And DON'T forget to mention my name, Nogger. There's nowt in it form me, that's just for erm research purposes.

EU Rapemeal Prices

26/03/13 -- Rapemeal prices on the continent are sharply higher today. Soymeal values in Chicago were firmer last night and again this morning. There may also be some concerns for EU rapeseed yields this year following a difficult growing season so far in the UK and France.

Latest guide prices for EU rapemeal today, basis FOB Lower Rhine in euros/metric tonne, with change from previous trading session:


The Morning Rant

26/03/13 -- It's my birthday! That's the most important bit out of the way. Other more mundane stuff includes the overnight grains mixed to a little lower. The pound is up above 1.18 against the euro as we all pour over the details of the Cyprus bailout deal.

That's if you can find any details that is. Anyone with less than EUR100,000 in savings in Cypriot banks won't take a hit is about all we know. Anyone with over that amount will take a big hit, although the exact percentage is apparently not yet decided.

Anyone wanting to draw their under EUR100,000 deposits out straight away might face a struggle though. The Beeb last night were reporting vaguely that "financial controls" would remain in place for a short period, without elaborating what these controls might be. This morning the Beeb say that "temporary measures will be placed on transactions when they (the banks) reopen" - and that won't be until at least Thursday. Nobody seems to know what these "temporary restrictions" will be, or how long "temporary" is however. Or if they do, they aren't telling.

Undoubtedly they will be setting a limit on how much of your money you can actually withdraw, which will not go down well at all with the public. The whole thing reminds me of a sketch on Not The Nine O'Clock News many years ago where Rowan Atkinson goes into the bank only to be told that his shoebox where they keep all his money has been stolen. Unfortunately I can't find it on YouTube otherwise I'd post a link to it up.

Suppose you were just about to buy a villa in Cyprus and had deposited EUR250,000 in the Laiki Bank at the beginning of the month to fund the transaction? Now you haven't got EUR250,000 any more, so the deal is off, and presumably when the banks finally do re-open they will only let you take out what little is left of it bit by bit?

Cypriot businesses, many of which are now operating on a cash only basis by all accounts, can't operate under those conditions can they?

The government appear to be saying "your EUR100,000 is safe, don't worry, there isn't a problem as long as you don't all want to draw it out at the same time. Because if you do, we haven't actually got it." In other words "Your shoebox has been stolen."

So if you can't trust the banks, who can you trust? That seems to be the clear message coming out of this one. As Agrimoney point out this morning the Dutch finance minister, who as head of the Eurogroup played a key role in the Cyprus talks, really put his foot in it by suggesting that "the deal offered a template for sorting out future eurozone banking problems."

So, what you are saying is that this has been a bit of a test case on a relative minnow, and now that you're happy with how smoothly everything has gone, then this could be the way that any such future banking problems are resolved when one of the bigger boys gets into trouble? Great! Luckily I'm a spender not a saver, otherwise there'd be a run on Lloyds TSB this morning never mind the Bank of Bleeding Cyprus.

Chicago Market Trading Sideways Ahead Of USDA

25/03/13 -- Soycomplex: It's only Monday and already it looks like we could be in for a sideways few days ahead of Thursday's upcoming USDA reports. Weekly export inspections today were 18.458 million bushels, more than double last week's total, but to put it into perspective that was the lowest of the season so far. Paraguay’s Ag Ministry said that the 2012/13 soybean crop there could be "above 8.0 MMT" and with the crop 90% harvested they should have a fairly accurate idea of where things are going to end up. That would be a record production from the world's fourth largest exporter of soybeans. The Ministry said that bean yields are averaging 2.7-2.8 MT/ha, and in some areas reaching 4.0 MT/ha versus the historic average of 2.6 MT/ha. Shipping delays continue in Brazil, with Paranagua now said to be 54-56 days and Santos at 18-40 days. Landlocked Paraguay ship around 60% of their beans through Argentina and 40% via Uruguay. Delays routing beans through Argentina are already said to be 20-45 days, before Argentine growers themselves really get cracking with their own soybean harvest (currently said to be only 5% complete). Ahead of Thursday's reports a Bloomberg survey estimated US soybean planted area in 2013 at a record 78.35 million acres versus Informa’s estimate of 78.457 million released last week and the 77.2 million planted last year. A different survey shows Mar 1st soybean stocks are expected to come in at 935 million bushels versus 1.374 billion a year previously. Fund selling in beans was estimated at around 2,000 contracts on the day. May 13 Soybeans closed at USD14.37 1/4, down 3 1/4 cents; Jul 13 Soybeans closed at USD14.17 1/2, down 1/2 cent; May 13 Soybean Meal closed at USD417.80, down USD1.50; May 13 Soybean Oil closed at 50.44, up 1 point.

Corn: The corn market continues to nudge stealthily higher. Weekly export inspections were 17.225 million bushels, up 1.3 million on last week, but still lag the pace needed to hit USDA targets. The market remains firm however on ideas of increased US usage. All ten of Valero's US ethanol plants are now said to be back online. The USDA will report on domestic Mar 1st stocks on Thursday, with the trade expecting a figure of around 5 billion bushels of corn versus just over 6 billion a year previously. A Bloomberg survey puts the 2013 US corn planted area at 97.3 million acres versus Informa’s estimate of 97.753 million and last year's 97.2 million. UAE bought 40,000 MT of corn over the weekend, possibly of South American origin. The Philippine Ag Secretary estimated their 2013 corn crop at 8.4 MMT versus 7.8 MMT a year ago. The current cold and wet conditions in the US are seen delaying early planting hopes. Friday's Commitments of Traders data shows spec money coming back into the market for corn. As of March 19th, Non-Commercial traders were net long 215,152 contracts, up 61,841 contracts on the week. Trend-Following Funds (Non-Commercials net of Index Funds) held a net long position of 100,385 contracts, up 61,086 contracts on the week. Funds were said to have been net buyers of around 4,000 corn contracts today. May 13 Corn closed at USD7.33 1/4, up 7 cents; Jul 13 Corn closed at USD7.15 1/4, up 6 3/4 cents.

Wheat: The wheat market finished a little lower, but garnered spillover support from corn. Heavy snow over the weekend on the Plains was seen as beneficial for winter wheat. Europe and Ukraine also are seen benefiting from recent substantial snow. India offered the lowest price in a Bangladeshi wheat tender, and Australian wheat was said to be the most competitive in an Iraqi tender that closed at the weekend. Indonesia bought 30 TMT of Australian wheat at USD330 C&F over the weekend. India released another 160,000 MT of wheat for export on Friday. Russia said that they are close to agreeing the removal of their grain import duty. Weekly export inspections were 20.788 million bushels, which is quite respectable although 3.199 million lower than last week. The trade is expecting US all wheat acres at 56.414 million on Thursday, versus 56.074 million from Informa last week and 55.736 million last year. Mar 1st wheat stocks are expected to come in at 1.177 billion bushels versus 1.199 a year previously. Friday's Commitments of Traders report shows spec money covering in some of their CBOT wheat shorts in the week through to March 19th. Non-Commercial traders were net short 19,840 contracts, down 8,566 contracts for the week. May 13 CBOT Wheat closed at USD7.27 1/4, down 2 1/2 cents; May 13 KCBT Wheat closed at USD7.59, down 2 1/2 cents; May 13 MGEX Wheat closed at USD8.05 1/4, down 1 1/4 cents.

EU Grains Mostly Higher On Cyprus Relief

25/03/13 -- EU wheat futures closed mostly higher, seemingly relived that a Cypriot bailout deal got pushed through, even if the finer details remain very sketchy at the moment. The implications further afield than Cyprus may not be anything like as sorted as the market might think however.

On the day, London wheat closed with front month May 13 unchanged at GBP201.50/tonne and with new crop Nov 13 GBP0.35/tonne higher to GBP186.05/tonne. May 13 Paris wheat was up EUR2.00/tonne at EUR243.25/tonne.

Substantial weekend rains and snowfall in the southern US Plains, with the prospect of more to come in the week, was seen a bit bearish for US wheat. That may be true for winter wheat, but Northern spring wheat farms in North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota are in jeopardy of serious planting delays, said Martell Crop Projections.

"Cold temperatures and snow in the southwest Midwest will keep soil temperatures cold and will keep fieldwork and early planting of corn and soybeans there very slow. Wet soils in the northern Delta are also keeping planting there slow. Also, very cold temperatures in the southwestern Plains are resulting in some spotty damage there to jointing wheat, mainly in northwest TX and western OK," note MDA CropCast.

FranceAgriMer said that winter wheat crop conditions there are 66% good/very good, unchanged on a week ago and this time last year. Winter barley rated good/very good was 67%, also unchanged on a week ago but up from 53% this time last year. Spring barley plantings only advanced to 64% done from 58% last week and well behind the pace of 86% set last year, hampered by snow and the prevailing cold conditions.

In their first look at EU yield potential for 2013, the EU Commission's MARS unit estimated a rise of 4.4% on last year to an average 5.4 MT/ha for wheat, with barley yields rising 2.3% to 4.46 MT/ha, corn yields up 16.7% to 6.96 MT/ha and OSR yields seen broadly unchanged at 3.1 MT/ha.

"To date, no frost-kill damage has been simulated for EU-27 during the period of review, thanks to light frost events and sufficient snow cover," they note.

In France they said that "the substantial amount of rainfall and low temperatures that occurred during winter have delayed the development of winter cereals in the northern half of the country. Crop growth expectations are normal."

In Germany "a slightly cooler than usual winter with well distributed precipitation should ensure a good start into the season. However, the harsh frosts that occurred during the latest cold snap in March give rise for concern," they suggest.

Meanwhile, in the UK they appear to be of the view that yields will return to normal this year! They forecast wheat yields of 8.02 MT/ha, a 20% increase on last season, with winter barley yields down 1%, spring barley yields up 6% and rapeseed yields rising 3% to 3.5 MT/ha.

In North Africa "the yield forecast for wheat (soft and durum) is significantly higher than the five-year average for the three Maghreb countries (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) due to rather wet and mild winter conditions, which favoured a good start to vegetative growth and repletion of soil water capacity," they said.

The Egyptian government are forecasting a domestic wheat crop of a record 9-10 MMT this year, and say that they've set aside 11 billion Egyptian pounds to buy 4.5 MMT of wheat on the local market. With an annual wheat consumption rate of around 18-19 MMT they will still need to import 8-9 MMT this year if they wish to avoid eating into their buffer stocks.

That might be a tall order for the cash-strapped Egyptians who have been exceptionally quiet on the tender front so far in 2013.

EU Rapemeal Prices

25/03/13 -- Rapemeal prices on the continent are generally a little easier today, in line with a softer tone to Chicago soymeal values on Friday which has been carried through into overnight trade. The EU Commission's MARS unit released their first estimates on 2013 yields today, pegging the average EU-27 rapeseed yield at 4.86 MT/ha, a fall of over 9% on last year.

Guide prices, basis FOB Lower Rhine in euros/metric tonne, with change from previous session:


Deal Or No Deal?

25/03/13 -- Cyprus apparently got it's 11th hour bailout deal, although fathoming out the exact terms of it are far from easy. The ordinary Joe in the street with less than EUR100,000 in savings is safe, we are told. What happens when Joe attempts to withdraw his EUR50,000 or EUR99,000 or whatever he's unlucky enough to have on deposit tomorrow, or whenever the banks finally do re-open, is unclear.

Joe doesn't give a monkey's about the Russian's with their mega deposits, reports suggest that they will lose at least 30% and possibly more than 40% of their cash - some tax dodge that proved to be!

Joe's money is "fully guaranteed" he's been told, so he'll be wanting it. All of it. At the first available opportunity. And Joe won't be the only one will he? He probably hasn't even stopped to think what he's going to do with it yet, first he wants it out, where he can touch it, and count it, and touch it again.

And Cyprus are potentially just the tip of the European iceberg.

In other news, Ukraine got 50cm of snow over the weekend, according to Agritel. That will put paid to spring planting progress which the Ministry have been saying was well ahead of normal up until now.

FranceAgriMer say that spring barley planting there is 64% done, up from 58% a week previously, but well below the 86% complete at this time last year. Winter wheat is rated 66% good/very good, the same as last week and this time last year. Winter barley is 67% good/very good, unchanged on a week ago and much better than 53% this time in 2012.

Russia's grain exports now stand at 14.05 MMT, down 36% on a year ago. The Ministry say that they may lower their 2012/13 full season export estimate to 14.8 MMT.

Indonesia are reported to have bought 30 TMT of Australian wheat at USD330 C&F for June shipment overnight. The Indians should take note.

With 85% of the soybean crop now harvested in Brazil's top producing state of Mato Grosso, yields in some areas of the state have been disappointing, according to the president of the Rural Society there.