Is The Rout Almost Over, Especially For Milling Wheat?

22/07/14 -- EU grains markets posted a mini "Turnaround Tuesday" event, closing mostly higher, consolidating from recent heavy losses that have driven prices to multi-year lows.

The day finished with Nov 14 London wheat up GBP060/tonne at GBP127.65/tonne, Nov 14 Paris wheat ended EUR1.75/tonne higher at EUR178.00/tonne, Aug 14 Paris corn was down EUR5.25/tonne at EUR160.25/tonne, whilst Aug 14 Paris rapeseed was up EUR5.75/tonne to EUR314.75/tonne.

Fresh news was relatively thin on the ground. Russia’s Ag Ministry said that as of Jul 21 the country had harvested 31.7 MMT of grain on 9.1 million hectares. Average yields are said to be 3.48 MT/ha, up 19% on a year ago.

Is all the good news coming out of Russia simply too good to be true and at least partly a reaction to the bad press that they have been getting from the West lately?

We still don’t know how this developing situation will pan out. A best case scenario would seem to be an edgy stalemate developing, with Russia pulling back on its apparent support for the rebels in the east of Ukraine.

A deepening of the conflict would cause further destabilisation in eastern Ukraine, with the possibility of greater/extended Russian intervention. That could even lead to Russia attempting to annex Eastern Ukraine- where the majority of Russian speakers and sympathisers reside.

They did after all take Crimea with barely a whimper from the West.

Such a move would undoubtedly lead to tough “level 3” sanctions from Europe. This would make it more difficult for Russian banks and major businesses to access global capital markets. Don't forget that Russia is already teetering on the brink of recession.

Putin would not want that, but climbing down is not his forte. If the country was to be pushed into recession then who better to blame than the West?

Back to the fundamentals. Ukraine said that they'd exported 1.19 MMT of grain so far this month, including 232 TMT of wheat, 660 TMT of barley and 284 TMT of corn. Their harvest is also said to be going well by the Ag Ministry with yields up 7.5%, but who's to say that they aren't also playing the same game as Russia?

Currently international buyers still seem relatively relaxed about buying from Russia, but that’s a situation that could change quickly. Ukraine could also soon be viewed as an “unreliable” supplier if there were question marks raised over its ability to honour its contractual obligations.

Meanwhile, there's growing chatter that all is far from well with France's wheat harvest. The volume might be there, but the quality may not be. Reuters report that premiums for higher quality milling wheat jumped yesterday after more heavy weekend rains. Quality premiums are now "close to levels seen during the poor quality harvest of 2007," they said. Some French buyers are now looking to Germany for their requirements, Reuters suggested.

That could still spell bad news for feed wheat of course, especially with a large EU and FSU corn crop potentially waiting in the wings.

That may also explain the poor performance by Paris corn today, relative to the other grains. The wet weather may be damaging to milling wheat quality, but beneficial to spring planted corn.