Chicago Grains Closing Comments - Friday Night

28/03/14 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed narrowly mixed on the day, but higher for the week. The trade is now sat tight waiting for Monday's USDA stocks and planting intentions reports. These are expected to show US March 1st soybean stocks at a tight 989 million bushels, and that US farmers plan to sow around 81 million acres (record) of soybeans this spring. The Buenos Aires Grains Exchange estimated the Argentine soybean crop at a record 54.5 MMT, unchanged from their previous estimate. The 2014 soybean harvest is 3.2% complete, up from 1.2% a week ago and versus 5% a year ago, they added. The Argentine Ag Ministry yesterday estimated the soybean crop there at 54.0 MMT, up 9.5% from 2012/13. That's the same figure that the IGC gave us yesterday, who also estimated the Brazilian soybean crop at a record 85.6 MMT. So, we have two record crops on the way from the leading South American producers, and record plantings in the offing in the US. In addition, there's already talk of Brazil's 2014/15 soybean crop usurping this season's record. Yet, strong demand from China (also at record levels) continues to see soybean prices defy gravity. The latest Commitment of Traders report shows managed money trimming their soybean long position for the week through to Tuesday night by over 13k contracts, although the still sit on a sizeable net long of over 185k lots. May 14 Soybeans closed at $14.36 1/2, unchanged; Jul 14 Soybeans closed at $14.07 3/4, up 3/4 cent; May 14 Soybean Meal closed at $468.40, down $2.10; May 14 Soybean Oil closed at 40.48, up 5 points. May 14 beans added 27 3/4 cents during the course of the week, and May 14 meal gained $12.50.

Corn: The corn market also ended the day with little change, but finished higher for the week. As with beans, there wasn't a lot of fresh news out there, and any position squaring that traders needed to do ahead of Monday's reports looked like it had already been done earlier in the week. For corn, Monday's reports are expected to show March 1st US stocks of around 7 billion bushels, with 2014 plantings falling from 95.4 million acres last year (a 75-year high) to around 92.7-92.9 million this time round. The Buenos Aires Grains Exchange estimated the Argentine corn crop at 24.0 MMT versus a previous estimate of 23.5 MMT and the 2012/13 crop of 27 MMT. The Argentine Ag Ministry yesterday forecast the corn crop there at 29.8 MMT in their first estimate of the season. The Buenos Aires Grains Exchange estimated the Argentine corn harvest is 10% complete versus 7% a week ago and 18% a year ago. The Ukraine Ag Ministry said that Ukraine had exported 2.5 MMT of grains (mostly corn) between March 1-27th. They said that takes this season's exports to 26.9 MMT so far. CEC estimated South Africa’s 2014 corn crop at 12.955 MMT versus a previous estimate of 12.403 MMT. The latest Commitment of Traders report shows fund money continuing to add to their net long position in corn. They are now sitting on a net long of nearly 240k contracts. That's a pretty large position, and one that could leave the market vulnerable to a serious downside slump should they all decide to scramble for the exit at the same time. May 14 Corn closed at $4.92 and Jul 14 Corn closed at $4.96 1/4, both unchanged. For the week May 14 corn added 13 cents.

Wheat: The wheat market took a dive to end the week in appropriately choppy fashion. Yet, for the week as a whole we are virtually unchanged. Monday's USDA reports are expected to show US March 1st wheat stocks of around one billion bushels. US all wheat plantings are expected to come in at around 56.3 million acres. Spring wheat plantings might have the capacity to spring a surprise (no pun intended) given the recent strength in wheat prices following Russia's annexation of Crimea. The 2013 "other" spring wheat (excluding durum) area was 11.6 million acres, this is expected to rise to around 12.3 million this year, although some estimates are as high as 13.5 million. MDA CropCast yesterday raised their forecast for the 2014 US all wheat crop by 1.6 MMT due to increased spring wheat plantings and improved yield expectations. Algeria bought 250,000-300,000 MT of optional origin (possibly French) milling wheat for May/June shipment. Tunisia bought 50,000 MT of soft milling wheat and 25,000 MT of barley for Apr/May shipment. The origin was also optional but thought most likely to be sourced from the Black Sea. The USDA attaché in Brazil estimated their 2014/15 wheat area at 2.0 million hectares, down 9% from a year ago. This is in direct conflict to other estimates which forecast wheat plantings in Brazil rising this year as the crop potentially offers much better returns than safrinha corn. For example, the Secretary of Agriculture for the state of Parana estimate that the wheat acreage in the state will increase by 20% in 2014. The Commitment of Traders report shows managed money adding almost 12.5k contracts to the new net long position in CBOT wheat, leaving them net long of around 36.5k lots. May 14 CBOT Wheat closed at $6.95 1/2, down 15 cents; May 14 KCBT Wheat closed at $7.63 1/2, down 20 1/4 cents; May 14 MGEX Wheat closed at $7.39 3/4, down 14 1/2 cents. CBOT wheat added 2 1/4 cents for the week, with KCBT down 7 3/4 cents and MGEX shedding 3 1/2 cents.

EU Grains Mostly Lower On The Day And For The Week

28/03/14 -- EU grains closed mostly lower, with the exception of rapeseed which ended the day with gains of EUR1.25-3.75/tonne.

May 14 London wheat closed GBP1.00/tonne easier at GBP167.25/tonne, and with new crop Nov 14 GBP1.20/tonne lower at GBP158.10/tonne. May 14 Paris wheat closed EUR1.75/tonne lower at EUR209.75/tonne, Jun 14 Paris corn was down EUR0.50/tonne to EUR185.25/tonne and May 14 Paris rapeseed rose EUR1.25/tonne to EUR412.25/tonne.

For the week, May 14 London wheat was down a pound and new crop Nov 14 fell GBP1.90/tonne. May 14 Paris wheat fell one euro, whist corn was down half a euro whilst rapeseed jumped eleven euros. The pound rallied more than a cent and a half against the dollar, and by a euro cent and a half against the single currency during the course of the week, putting London wheat under a bit of pressure, particularly on new crop.

The unprecedented pace of EU wheat exports remains supportive, at least in the old crop positions, although corn continues to pour into Europe, displacing wheat.

The trade now has an eye on new crop prospects. Coceral forecast the EU-28 soft wheat crop at 135.9 MMT in their first look into 2014/15, down slightly on the 136.3 MMT produced last year, but 1.2 MMT higher than the EU Commission's estimate earlier this month.

Coceral estimated the EU-28 barley crop at 55.3 MMT, a 6.9% fall on last year. They said that Europe's corn crop would rise marginally on last year to 63.7 MMT, and that rapeseed output here would increase by 300,000 MT to 21.1 MMT.

Unseasonably mild weather conditions across almost the whole of Europe have crop maturity well advanced versus 12 months ago. FranceAgriMer today reported that 73% of the French winter wheat crop is displaying an ear of at least 1cm long, up sharply from 43% a week ago. Only 9% of the crop was at that stage this time last year.

French winter barley is also 73% at the same stage versus 38% a week ago and only 8% a year ago.

FranceAgriMer said that 96% of the spring barley crop is now in the ground, up from 87% last week and compared to 72% this time last year. Corn planting has yet to begin.

They said that 75% of the French winter wheat crop is rated as good/very good, the same proportion as last week and 9 points ahead of a year ago at this time. French winter barley rated good/very good was placed at 72%, up a point on a week ago and 5 points ahead of this time last year.

The HGCA said that UK winter wheat crops "have recovered well from the saturated soils over winter, with the majority of crops having good plant and tiller numbers. Many crops are more advanced than normal with over 30% of the area at stem extension compared to typically about 10% at the end of March." Winter barley is at a similar stage of maturity, they estimated.

For spring barley "soil conditions improved throughout the month allowing cultivation and drilling of spring barley to get underway. By the end of the month about 30% of the planned UK area was drilled, with most progress in the drier eastern side of the country, and very little drilled further north and in Scotland," they added.

Further east in Europe, things don't look quite so rosy. "March dryness has become very pronounced in Germany, Europe’s second biggest wheat country threatening the 2014 wheat harvest. Serious drought extends also into western Poland, Czech Republic, Romania and Bulgaria. All have received less than half of normal normal winter precipitation," said Martell Crop Projections.

This dryness extends all the way from Germany across to Ukraine where "like Europe, unseasonable warmth has prevailed in March. Temperatures yesterday in Ukraine reached 60s F and low 70s F, more typical of midsummer than spring. The heat is exacerbating moisture stress in central Ukraine," they added.

Chicago Markets End Mixed

27/03/14 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed slightly lower on continued talk of Chinese crushers selling South American purchases to the US and also cancelling/deferring some shipments. As well as China already having more than ample stocks, there are also some reports of problems in obtaining letters of credit. Weekly export sales for beans came in at just 11,900 MT of old crop and 534,900 MT of new crop. The trade was expecting old crop sales of around 100-250 TMT and new crop sales of 300-500 TMT. Actual shipments this past week totalled 729 TMT, bringing the marketing year to date total to 39.84 MMT, which is almost 96% of the USDA forecast for the season. Total commitments, including unshipped sales, remain at 107% of the USDA's forecast. Argentina's Feb soybean crush was reported as 1.529 MMT versus 1.965 MMT in January and 1.212 MMT in Feb 2013. The International Grains Council cut 2 MMT off their world soybean production estimate for 2013/14, but also trimmed consumption by a similar amount, leaving ending stocks unchanged at 27 MMT. "The forecast for global soyabean output in 2013/14 is lowered this month, but is still seen rising by 4% year on year to an all-time high. A 4% expansion in 2013/14 end-season stocks is expected (versus 2012/13), but availabilities are less ample than initially anticipated; trade is seen up 11% year on year, almost entirely due to strong China demand. Following a record crop in 2013/14, global rapeseed/canola output is tentatively projected down 3% in 2014/15 as yields retreat, but it would still be the second highest crop ever," they said. They cut their forecast for the Brazilian soybean crop from 88 MMT to 85.6 MMT, but raised Argentina from 53.5 MMT to 54 MMT. China's 2013/14 import requirement was left unchanged at 68.5 MMT. May 14 Soybeans closed at $14.36 1/2, down 3 1/2 cents; Jul 14 Soybeans closed at $14.07, down 3 cents; May 14 Soybean Meal closed at $470.50, up $1.40; May 14 Soybean Oil closed at 40.43, down 30 points.

Corn: The corn market posted decent gains of between 4-7 cents, aided by strong weekly export sales. These came in at 1.4 MMT of old crop versus the expected 525-725 TMT. There was also a couple of small sales for 2014/15 totalling 28,400 MT. Exports of 1,230,000 MT were up 33 percent from the previous week and 29 percent from the prior 4-week average. Total sales commitments are now around 98% of the USDA's target for the season, although almost 19 MMT of that total remains unshipped. Could this be partly due to "insurance" purchases from the US just in case anything goes wrong with availability out of the Black Sea? This week's largest buyer was Egypt booking 431,100 MT. The USDA attaché in Brazil estimated their 2013/14 corn crop at 72.0 MMT versus only 72 MMT from the USDA themselves. They also estimated the Brazilian 2014/15 corn crop at 71.0 MMT. The IGC held their world 2013/14 corn production estimate unchanged at 959 MMT, and forecast output in 2014/15 rising to a new all time high of 961 MMT. "A bumper crop in 2013/14 should allow for some stock building, with a sharp rise in supplies more than offsetting strong gains in use. Strong demand growth is also expected, but, led by a steep increase in the US, world closing stocks are forecast to expand again in 2014/15, potentially to the highest level in 15 years," they said. They estimated the Brazilian corn crop at 69 MMT this year, with Argentina's at 24 MMT. Chinese imports were placed at 5 MMT. "The potential impact of political tensions in the Black Sea region remains uncertain, but with Russia and Ukraine significant exporters of wheat, and Ukraine the third leading supplier of corn to world markets, both prices and volatility have risen," they added. May 14 Corn closed at $4.92, up 7 1/2 cents; Jul 14 Corn closed at $4.96 1/4, up 7 cents.

Wheat: The wheat market also managed some decent gains as weekly export sales beat expectations. These came in at 400,500 MT of old crop and 327,500 MT of new crop versus the expected 325-475 TMT and 50-250 TMT respectively. Shipments of 530,400 MT were up 21 percent from the previous week and 2 percent from the prior 4-week average. The US has now shipped 24.46 MMT of wheat this season, with a further 5.46 MMT of outstanding sales. That gives net commitments of 95% of the USDA's target for the season, although note that the wheat marketing year ends in May so it's finish is a lot closer that it is for corn or soybeans which run through to August. The IGC raised their world 2013/14 wheat production estimate by 1 MMT from last month to a new record 709 MMT. Despite ample nearby supplies and generally favourable crop prospects, US weather concerns and political tensions in the Black Sea region have lifted wheat prices in the past month, they noted. "World stocks are seen up 17 MMT by the end of 2013/14, and trade is raised by 4 MMT this month, to a record 150 MMT, with stronger than expected demand in Near East Asia and Africa. Projected 2014/15 global production has been lifted by 4 MMT, to 700 MMT, but this would still be slightly lower year on year," they said. Some of the driest winter wheat areas of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas picked up fair rains overnight. "By and large, rainfall that occurred in hard red winter wheat was heavier than predicted," said Martell Crop Projections. MDA CropCast raised their forecast for the US 2014 all wheat crop by 1.6 MMT from last week to 59 MMT citing increased yield expectations for spring wheat. Jordan cancelled a tender to import 100 TMT of optional origin barley for June-July shipment. Tunisia is tendering for 50 TMT of milling wheat and 25 TMT of feed barley, both of optional origin for April–May shipment. May 14 CBOT Wheat closed at $7.10 1/2, up 13 3/4 cents; May 14 KCBT Wheat closed at $7.83 3/4, up 12 1/2 cents; May 14 MGEX Wheat closed at $7.54 1/4, up 7 1/2 cents.

EU Grains Little Changed, Wheat Exports At Record Levels

27/03/14 -- EU grains closed with little change. May 14 London wheat 5 pence lower at GBP168.25/tonne, whilst new crop Nov 14 was GBP0.50/tonne easier at GBP159.30/tonne. May 14 Paris wheat closed a euro higher at EUR211.50/tonne, Jun 14 Paris corn was unchanged at EUR185.75/tonne and May 14 Paris rapeseed rose EUR1.75/tonne to EUR411.00/tonne.

Brussels announced another strong week of European soft wheat exports, with 816 TMT worth of export licences being granted. That takes the cumulative total for the 2013/14 campaign to 22.7 MMT, already beating the previous full season record set in 2008/09. Add on 582 TMT of wheat flour exports and a further 702 TMT of durum and we get a grand total of all wheat/flour exports of almost 24 MMT.

With 3 months of the season remaining that means that Europe has already achieved 83% of the USDA's estimated total for the marketing year of 29 MMT. If we were to carry on exporting wheat at this rate then total 2013/14 sales would hit 32 MMT.

As wheat goes out, corn comes in, with Brussels also granting 501 TMT worth of corn import licences, taking the marketing year to date total to 10.1 MMT.

The Russian Ag Minister optimistically said that the recent "acquisition" of Crimea would add 2 MMT of grain production to the national harvest this year, forecasting a total Russian grain crop of 97 MMT. The last time Crimea produced anything like that volume however was in 2011. Last year's crop was only 800 TMT and in 2012 it was only a little better at 900 TMT.

The Ukraine Weather Centre said that winter crop losses this year would only total 1-2% of plantings - a historically low number - due to the unusually mild winter. The Ukraine Ministry said that early spring grain plantings (which excludes corn) had been completed on 1.9 million hectares, or 64% of plan. That total includes 1.45 million ha of barley, 100k ha of wheat and 169k ha of oats.

APK Inform said that Ukraine's grain exports to date this season had now exceeded 25 MMT, which is 79% of their forecast for full year exports of 31.7 MMT.

Local analysts ProAgro forecast Ukraine's 2014/15 grain crop at 55.7 MMT, a 6.5% decline on last year. They see wheat production at 20.3 MMT, an 8.5% fall on 2013.

Parts of the US winter wheat crop got some much-needed rain overnight, partially easing drought conditions.

"Ordinarily a strong wave of showers would not make the headlines, but following one of the driest winters on record, it is big news. Of the 3 main bread wheat states Oklahoma fared best receiving 1-1.5 inches in scattered strong showers," said Martell Crop Projections. Parts of Kansas and Texas also picked up some moisture too, they noted.

Algeria's Ag Ministry estimated their 2014 grain crop at 5.5 MMT versus 4.9 MMT in 2013. They forecast 2014 soft and durum wheat imports at 5-5.5 MMT.

Tunisia's Ag Minister was quoted on Reuters as saying that this year's grain harvest "will much higher than last year's crop." Production in 2013 fell to only 1.2 MMT from 2.2 MMT in 2012.

Egypt's Supplies Minister said that he expects Egypt’s 2014/15 wheat imports to fall 1.0-1.5 MMT from 2013/14.

Chicago Wheat Dives On Rain Forecast For US Plains

26/03/14 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed higher, with the front end once again showing the biggest rises. The main driver is the frenetic pace of US exports so far this season, with 94% of the USDA target for 2013/14 already shipped. The trade is expecting US Mar 1st soybean stocks to come in below a billion bushels in Monday's stocks report from the USDA, even lower than last year and down sharply on 2.148 billion as at Dec 1st. Reports continue to circulate that China is reselling surplus soybean purchases to the US however. One Chinese website stated that Chinese soybean crushers have sold 8 South American soybean cargoes to the US and that they have cancelled or delayed up to a further 20 cargoes of South American soybeans. Brazil's IBGE said that the "safrinha" soybean area there has increased 6-fold to 745,000 hectares. High soybean prices, and low ones for corn, are encouraging the planting of second crop beans despite government disapproval of the practice which they say increases Asian Rust risks. Dr Cordonnier estimates that this could add a further 1.5 MMT of soybeans to the Brazilian crop, on the basis that this area would yield around two thirds of normal full season beans. The practice of soy on soy is also widespread in Paraguay where a further 550,000 ha of second crop beans have been planted, double the area sown last year. That could also add around a further 1 MMT to their crop, Dr Cordonnier adds. Some Paraguayan growers are now planting 3 crops a season, starting with soybeans in September, soybeans again early in the new year, followed by wheat, he noted. Dry weather is forecast for Argentina and Brazil through to the end of the week, with rains in the forecast for the weekend. May 14 Soybeans closed at $14.40, up 12 cents; Jul 14 Soybeans closed at $14.10, up 8 3/4 cents; May 14 Soybean Meal closed at $469.10, up $5.40; May 14 Soybean Oil closed at 40.73, down 1 point.

Corn: The corn market drifted a couple of cents lower, with fresh news hard to come by. The daily trading range was narrow, little more than 5 cents on the nears and less than that further forward. The trade is positioning itself for the Planting Intentions report on Monday, with estimates for corn in the range of 90.5-94.0 million acres versus the 75-year high of 95.4 million last year. The USDA Forum estimate in February came in at 92.0 million. For March 1st stocks we also have quite a wide range of trade estimates of 6.8-7.5 billion bushels. March 1st stocks in 2013 were only 5.4 billion bushels. "If I am looking for a surprise on this report, I look to the quarterly stocks data and estimates on 1st quarter feed demand for corn. At the time they appeared overstated and caught many in the cash trade as well as analysts and the institutional investor completely off guard. If quarterly stocks project even a slightly higher carryout and the somewhat dismal ethanol grind, despite ethanol profitability, continues, the institutional investor is long too much corn at the current levels," said Brian Henry of Benson Quinn Commodiies. The Energy Dept reported that weekly ethanol production fell to 885,000 barrels/day this past week, down from 891,000 bpd the previous week and once again below the 933,000 bpd needed to hit the USDA's target for the season. South Korea's NOFI bought 189,000 MT of US/South American corn for July-Aug shipment in a tender for up to 210,000 MT. May 14 Corn closed at $4.84 1/2, down 2 cents; Jul 14 Corn closed at $4.89 1/4, down 2 cents.

Wheat: The wheat market took a nosedive on a wetter outlook for the dry US Plains. "Showers are predicted in Kansas, Oklahoma and central Texas in the new 7-day outlook. The GFS model predicts 0.25 to 0.50 inch of moisture in the next 48 hours. North central Kansas may receive even heavier rain up to one inch, when a short-wave disturbance tracks across the central Great Plains and Upper Midwest. The percent chance of rainfall in the 24 hours up to midnight tonight is promising for rain in Oklahoma where a 65% to 77% risk is predicted. Moderate rain, if it develops, would be the first important precipitation in several weeks," said Martell Crop Projections. Japan's Ag Ministry estimated 2014/15 food wheat imports at 4.93 MMT, little changed from 4.91 MMT in 2013/14. They said that they will hold 943,000 MT of wheat in reserves in 2014, again little changed from. 938,000 MT in 2013. Australian growing areas are set to see good rains, which will help with their planting season. Russia could see better moisture too in the 8-15 day forecast, but Ukraine still looks dry. Central and Eastern Europe is also trending drier. Russia are seen exporting more grain in March than previously expected, and with shipments in April also holding up well. There's some trade gossip that KCBT wheat sales to Brazil are being switched to Russian origin material. China only sold around a third of the 800 TMT of wheat on offer at this week's government auction. That's down from around 45% a week ago.  May 14 CBOT Wheat closed at $6.96 3/4, down 11 1/2 cents; May 14 KCBT Wheat closed at $7.71 1/4, down 20 1/2 cents; May 14 MGEX Wheat closed at $7.46, down 17 cents.

EU Grains Lower On Lack Of Bullish News

26/03/14 -- EU grains closed the day mostly lower, in light consolidation from recent gains. The bulls must be fed every day, and there were only slim pickings around today.

The day ended with May 14 London wheat down GBP1.45/tonne at GBP168.30/tonne, and with new crop Nov 14 London wheat closing GBP1.70/tonne lower at GBP159.80/tonne. May 14 Paris wheat closed EUR2.50/tonne weaker at EUR210.50/tonne, Jun 14 Paris corn was unchanged at EUR185.75/tonne, whilst May 14 Paris rapeseed rose EUR0.50/tonne to close at EUR409.25/tonne.

The HGCA raised their forecast for UK wheat imports this season from 1.63 MMT to 1.80 MMT. They also increased their estimate for UK corn imports from 1.73 MMT to 2.01 MMT, a 19% rise on last season.

"Despite the exceptionally wet winter in parts of Western Europe, crop conditions in Europe overall are good at present," the HGCA said. They noted that winter crops were generally more advanced than average at this point in the year, and that spring plantings are successfully underway.

Some areas, parts of Germany in particular could now do with rain, despite a relatively wet autumn. However, despite a generally dry March so far "this precipitation trend will likely have to last for a longer period for it to cause real problems for crops," they said.

APK Inform said that Ukraine could harvest a record oilseeds crop this year, despite all their problems. If the weather doesn't deteriorate then Ukraine could harvest 9.8 MMT of sunflower, 5 MMT of soybeans and 2 MMT of rapeseed in 2014, they estimated.

Rusagrotrans increased their forecast for Russian grain exports this month from 1.35-1.40 MMT to 1.55-1.60 MMT, and up from 1.3 MMT in February. They see April exports at around 1.6 MMT as the recent devaluation of the Russian rouble makes their exports more competitive.

Weather models have suddenly turned much wetter for Russia and Kazakhstan across the next fortnight, which should ultimately be of benefit to crops there even if it might hold up spring planting in Russia's southern districts.

Australian growers are also forecast to get much needed soaking rains across the next couple of weeks, which would be very beneficial ahead of the start of the planting season there, should they arrive.

Algeria are tendering for 50,000 MT of optional origin milling wheat for May shipment.

It Was 50 Years Ago Today

26/03/14 -- Not quite how the line from Sgt Pepper went, but close enough. This was me (I'm the cute one on the left) 50 years ago today (I think).

So bollocks to work for 24 hours, but the pubs aren't open yet, so what's a boy to do to fill in his morning?

Well, the pubs might not be open yet, but the shops are. And it is my birthday, so I do feel like treating myself.

But what shall I buy?

Well, as it happens it cannot be a coincidence that they've just brought this out at around 4pm yesterday can it? The HTC One M8

Just as it was no coincidence that Everton thrashed the pants off Newcastle last night. That was also arranged to coincide with Happy Nogger Day. Have you seen the first one yet? The one that all the papers are talking about? The others were pretty decent too.

You can have a look at them all here: Ross Barkley "Wonder Goal"

Right, where's me coat....

Chicago Ends A Little Higher On Beans, A Bit Lower On Corn And Wheat

25/03/14 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed little changed. A report on Reuters, quoting China's Xinhua News, said that the US has already booked 500 TMT of South American soybeans and is working on additional deals with Chinese resellers. I read that Dr Cordonnier estimated the 2014 US soybean area at 80-81 million acres, with yields at 44-45 bu/acre. Linn Group estimated US soybean plantings this spring at 81.5 million acres. Informa went 81.2 million versus 81.3 million last month. A Reuters survey came up with an average trade estimate of 81.1 million, from within a range of estimates of 78.5 to 83.6 million. The USDA's February Outlook Forum estimate was 79.5 million. They're out with revised forecasts on Monday. Also due Monday are March 1st US stocks estimates. A Bloomberg survey pegged these at 987 million bushels, a 10 year low, and down on 998 million a year ago. A Reuters survey came up with a similar number - 989 million - from within a range of estimates of 955 million - 1.087 billion. Oil World estimated the South American soybean crop at 151.45 MMT versus a previous estimate of 150.6 MMT and up 5.5% from a year ago. They have the Brazilian crop at 84.5 MMT and Argentina's production at 54.5 MMT, both would be records. Jan/Mar South American soybean exports were estimated at 10.2 MMT versus 6.1 MMT a year ago. Brazil's March bean exports were estimated at 5.0 MMT - a record for the month. Dr Cordonnier estimated the Brazilian soybean crop at 86.0 MMT, unchanged from his previous estimate, with Argentina at 54 MMT, also unchanged. Funds were seen as modest net buyers of around 2,000 soybean contracts on the day, and the market closed with modest gains. Coincidence? I think not. May 14 Soybeans closed at $14.28, up 2 1/2 cents; Jul 14 Soybeans closed at $14.01 1/4, up 2 1/2 cents; May 14 Soybean Meal closed at $463.70, up $1.70; May 14 Soybean Oil closed at 40.74, down 10 points.

Corn: The corn market fell on light find selling - judged to be around a net 4,000 contracts on the day. As with soybeans, trade estimates for plantings and stocks next week are flooding in. Hearing that Dr Cordonnier estimated the 2014 US corn area at 92.0-93.0 million acres, with yields averaging 163-164 bu/acre. Linn Group estimated US corn plantings at 94 million acres, whilst Informa went for a figure of 93 million versus 93.3 million last month. A Reuters survey came up with an average trade guess of 92.75 million from within a range of estimates of 90.5-94.0 million. A Bloomberg survey came up with an average guess of 93 million acres. The USDA said 92 million last month. As far as March 1st inventories are concerned, a Reuters survey came up with an average trader guess of 7.1 billion bushels from within a range of estimates of 6.86-7.54 million. Taiwan's MFIG cancelled a tender to buy 60,000 MT of South American or US origin corn for May/June shipment citing high prices. Dr Cordonnier estimated the Brazilian corn crop at 68.5 MMT, unchanged from previous estimate, although he said he could raise this forecast sometime down the line. He was also said to have estimated the Argentine corn crop at 23.0 MMT, also unchanged from previously. APK Inform estimated the Ukraine 2014 corn crop at 29 MMT. Whilst that's down a little on last year's production of 30.9 MMT, its still a very sizable crop indeed, and one that would doubtless weigh on corn and wheat prices in Europe should it be achieved. The Energy Dept are out tomorrow with their usual weekly ethanol production report. Last week's output was 891,000 barrels/day. Whilst that was up on the previous week's modest effort of 869,000 bpd, it was still well below the 933,000 bpd needed to hit the USDA's target for the season. US weather is finally set to warm up this weekend, which may see some progress made with early corn planting in the Deep South and Southern Plains. May 14 Corn closed at $4.86 1/2, down 3 1/2 cents; Jul 14 Corn closed at $4.91 1/4, down 3 1/4 cents.

Wheat: The wheat market closed mostly a little lower, trimming recent sharp gains a little on a lack of fresh bullish news. APK Inform Agency estimated the 2014 Ukraine grain crop at 57.3 MMT, down 9% on last year's record output, but still a decent crop. They forecast wheat production at 19.2 MMT versus 22.3 MMT last year. These estimates do not include Crimea, they said. Linn Group estimated the US all wheat planted area at 57.5 million ares. Informa went for 56.3 million. They joined others in the trade by raising their view on US spring wheat plantings to around 12.3 million acres (although some estimates are as high as 13.5 million), presumably on the back of the recent rally in wheat values. A Reuters survey came up with an average trade estimate for US all wheat plantings of 56.3 million acres, from within a range of estimates of 54.8-56.3 million. US March 1st wheat stocks were estimated at 1.042 million bushels on average, from within a range of 985 million to 1.115 billion. A Bloomberg survey estimated US all wheat plantings at 56.09 million acres. Jordan are tendering for 150,000 MT of optional origin wheat for April–May shipment. Russia's Ag Ministry said that as of March 24 spring grain plantings are 0.8% complete on 396,400 hectares versus 443,400 hectares a year ago. Drought on the US Plains continues to be a problem for wheat emerging from dormancy. "Drought in Kansas has grown more severe with extremely dry weather the past 30 days. This is the time of year when rainfall ordinarily increases with seasonal warming in spring. The average weekly rainfall in Kansas last week was 0.38 inch in Kansas, but what occurred was only 0.08 inch," said Martell Crop Projections. Funds were estimated to have sold around a net 2,000 Chicago wheat contracts on the day. May 14 CBOT Wheat closed at $7.08 1/4, down 6 1/4 cents; May 14 KCBT Wheat closed at $7.91 3/4, down 2 3/4 cents; May 14 MGEX Wheat closed at $7.64 1/2, up 1 1/2 cents.

EU Grains MIxed, Spec Buying Supports- At Least For Now

25/03/14 -- EU grains closed mixed with May 14 London wheat unchanged at GBP170.25/tonne, and with new crop Nov 14 GBP0.05/tonne lower at GBP161.50/tonne. May 14 Paris wheat closed EUR0.75/tonne lower at EUR213.00/tonne, Jun 14 Paris corn was down EUR0.25/tonne to EUR185.75/tonne and May 14 Paris rapeseed rose EUR4.25/tonne to EUR408.75/tonne.

European wheat futures were mostly steadier in morning trade following another strong performance last night in the US, although yesterday's gains were tempered a little in the overnight Globex session. The daytime open outcry CBOT session continued to display a little weakness, which largely spilt over into European trade late in the day.

Declining US wheat conditions, large-scale fund buying and continuing tensions between Russia and the West/Ukraine underpin the market - at least for now. There are plenty however who think that more than enough risk premium has been added from the January lows. It's always dangerous when the main buyers in the market don't actually want to take delivery of the product that they are purchasing.

Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas winter wheat conditions all fell versus a week ago in last night's various state reports. Kansas good/excellent wheat is now 33% versus 34% a week ago, with Oklahoma rated 17% good/excellent against 18% last week and Texas down to 11% good/excellent from 13% last week. Only very light showers are in the forecast for the region this week.

UkrAgroConsult said Ukraine exported 2.019 MMT of grains between March 1-24, as shippers push exports aggressively to keep their cash flow moving. Early spring grain plantings there are already past halfway done.

Russia said that it had exported a record 422.3 TMT of corn in February, a near threefold increase on a year previously. Sep/Feb corn exports are now at a record 2.343 MMT, which is more than the volume exported in the whole of 2012/13.

The Ministry there said that spring plantings had been completed on approaching 400,000 hectares of the planned 31.8 million.

SovEcon estimated Russia’s 2014 grain crop at 88.0 MMT, up 2 MMT from a previous estimate of 86.0 MMT, but down 4 MMT on last year's 92.0 MMT. They estimate 2014/15 grain exports at 22.0 MMT versus 24.1 MMT in 2013/14 (exports so far this season currently stand at around 20 MMT).

Whilst there is no winterkill threat in the Black Sea region, parts of Russia and Ukraine are still experiencing drier than normal conditions. Some respite is in the forecast for western Ukraine and north/central parts of Russia. Eastern Ukraine and southern Russia lot set to remain dry.

There's widespread talk of rain being needed in eastern Australia to replenish soil moisture ahead of planting a month or two from now. Good rains appear to be on offer for Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Southern Australia in the 8-15 day time frame.

There’s also talk that Australia could be in for an El Nino year in 2014, which typically brings them below average rainfall and above average heat.

Both the GFS and CMC weather models are a bit drier for Europe across the next few weeks than they were yesterday, when good rains were in the forecast for many. Germany looks set to remain dry.

Chicago Jumps On Fund Buying, Time To Sell?

24/03/14 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed higher to start the week, particularly on old crop as the nearby supply and demand situation remains tight for US beans. Talk of a possible tail-off in Chinese demand wasn't helped by news that their PMI had dropped last month. That may however be more of a problem for South America, as the US has already shipped 94% of the USDA target for the season, and outstanding sales take that total to 107%. Meanwhile, having taken a fortnight to refloat a vessel that had run aground on the Parana River, blocking entry and exit to the leading Argentine grains port of Rosario (the vessel was finally able to navigate away on Friday), news broke today that two more vessels (The Sky Dragon and Cleanthe) had also run aground in the same area, once again blocking access to the port. Reuters reported that around 80 ships, both loaded and unloaded, were currently at anchor waiting for the problem to be resolved. Argentine farmers have just begin harvesting what the Rosario Grain Exchange say will be a record 54.7 MMT crop, and are still said to be carrying around 5 MMT of unsold soybeans from last year. Meanwhile, Safras e Mercado said as of Friday the Brazilian bean harvest is 67% complete versus 59% a week ago, 64% a year ago and 56% on average. AgRural estimated Brazil’s 2013/14 bean crop at 86.0 MMT, down on earlier predictions of in excess of 90 MT, but still a record. High soybean prices will almost certainly encourage US growers to plant a record acreage this spring. Farm Futures Magazine estimated the 2014 US bean acreage at a record 82.93 million acres, well above the USDA's 79.5 million from February's Outlook Forum, although some other private estimates from last week are even higher. Bloomberg reported that the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Foodstuffs said that domestic crushers there had agreed to reduce soybean imports. The report said that, according to the state-backed group, domestic soybean meal supply and demand are "seriously out of balance," and that the industry is incurring "huge losses" and faces unprecedented risks. China is of course single-handedly responsible for the majority of world demand for beans, accounting for around two thirds of global imports. If Chinese demand were to slow up significantly, downside risk for prices would be large - especially with huge US plantings going into the ground - following on from record Brazilian and Argentine production. US weekly export inspections came in at 732,132 MT versus the expected 770-925 TMT. Fund money was given credit for being a net buyer of around 5-6,000 bean contracts on the day. Their net long may now be above 200k lots, leaving the market vulnerable to a downside correction for little or no reason. May 14 Soybeans closed at $14.25 1/2, up 16 3/4 cents; Jul 14 Soybeans closed at $13.99 1/2, up 17 1/4 cents; May 14 Soybean Meal closed at $462.20, up $6.30; May 14 Soybean Oil closed at 40.80, down 22 points.

Corn: The corn market posted strong gains, with funds stepping in to increase their net long position by an estimated further 8-9,000 contracts. They are now heavily long corn, prompting the question how much further are they prepared to press the pedal? Weekly export inspections for corn came in at 1,142,722 MMT versus the expected 850 TMT to 1.0 MMT. Tensions in Ukraine continue to offer support to corn, even though current shipment levels continue unabated. The country has shipped 2.4 MMT of grains so far this month (mostly corn), according to the Ag Ministry. They said that 2013/14 year to date exports are now 26.8 MMT, including over 16.7 MMT of corn. APK Inform Agency said that Ukraine sea ports shipped out 797 TMT of grains last week, up from 706 TMT the week before. That included 655 TMT of corn. Taiwan are said to be in the market for 60 TMT of US or South American corn for May June shipment. There are some reports that China rejected 21,800 MT of US corn found to contain the non-approved MIR 162 strain. Farm Futures Magazine estimated the 2014 US corn acreage at 92.06 million, which is almost identical to the USDA's February Forum figure. Informa are due out with their estimates tomorrow mid-session. The USDA will release revised planting intentions estimates next Monday. In Brazil, IMEA said that Mato Grosso's "safrinha" corn planting is nearly complete at 99.8% done. The State Secretary of Agriculture in Parana said that some growers there will switch out of second crop corn and into wheat this year. Safras e Mercado said 96% of the Brazilian winter corn crop has been planted versus 95% a year ago. They said that 62% of the Brazilian summer corn crop has been harvested versus 48% a year ago. A Reuters poll estimated South Africa’s 2013/14 corn crop at 12.7 MMT, from within a range of estimates of 12.5-13.0 MMT. CEC come out on Thursday with their South African crop estimates, their previous estimate was 12.403 MMT. The EU Commission's MARS unit said that EU-28 corn yields are seen averaging 7.03 MT/ha this year, up 6.3% on last year and 2.9% above the 5-year average. US corn looks like getting planted late again this year. "Temperatures in the United States are gradually increasing but in many areas conditions are still below freezing. The snow cover is virtually gone except for a narrow band across the Upper Midwest in North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Soil temperatures are slowly warming . The subsoil last week was still mostly frozen across the heart of the corn belt, Nebraska to Ohio, with average daily temperatures from 30 to 37 F. The northern corn and spring wheat areas were colder with subsoil temperatures of 23 – 30 F. Fieldwork and planting usually gets under way in late April but is expected to be delayed this year in the wake of a super-cold winter. Corn requires 50 F soil temperatures for seeds to germinate," said Martell Crop Projections. May 14 Corn closed at $4.90 3/4, up 11 3/4 cents; Jul 14 Corn closed at $4.95, up 11 1/4 cents.

Wheat: The wheat market began the week sharply higher, with fund money stepping in for an estimated net 7,000 Chicago contracts, no doubt enthused by how easily they've managed to nudge the market higher since Putin decided to help himself to Crimea. Weekly export inspections came in at 524,857 MT versus the expected 425,000 – 530,000 MT. A decent enough total, but hardly spectacular. Fund money again appears to want to own wheat more than the global end user does at these levels. Farm Futures Magazine estimated the 2014 US all wheat acreage at 56.05 million acres, a small drop on 56.2 million last year, but above the USDA Outlook Forum estimate of 55.5 million. The recent price rally has come just in time to boost spring wheat plantings it would seem. Farm Futures estimate the US 2014 spring wheat acreage at 12.3 million acres and the durum area at 1.8 million acres. In 2013 the spring wheat area was 11.3 million acres and the durum are 1.4 million. Concerns remain for US winter wheat on the Plains. "Hard red winter wheat has begun growing in the Southern Great Plains where conditions have warmed up, but very dry field conditions are holding back wheat development. Winter precipitation ranked among the lowest 10-15% on record in Texas and Oklahoma, and 18th lowest in Kansas out of 119 years. The forecast is hopeful for showers this week in the southern Great Plains, though not much moisture is anticipated in Kansas. Best rainfall would develop along Oklahoma-Texas border where up to 0.70 inch of rain is possible," said Martell Crop Projections. After the close, state reports showed Texas had 11% of its winter wheat crop rated good/excellent, down 2 points on a week ago. Oklahoma was at 17% good/excellent versus 18% last week. The Brazilian State Secretary of Agriculture in Parana said that growers there will step up wheat plantings this year, estimating that they could rise 20% at the expense of "safrinha" or second crop corn. Production could come in at 3.5 MMT in the state, versus only 1.8 MMT last year when the crop was badly damaged by frost in the May/Jun period. Wheat planting in Brazil usually takes place Apr/Jun and harvesting is Oct/Dec. Brazil have ended up as large buyers of US wheat in 2013/14, partly due to the demise of their own crop and also due to production problems in Argentina, their preferred No 1 supplier. Russia reported that they had shipped 954 TMT of grains in the Mar 1-19 period, including 503 TMT of wheat. Their year to date grain exports are now 19.786 MMT, up 40.8% on last year, including over 14.5 MMT of wheat. The Ukraine Ministry said that, despite all the political upheaval there, that early spring grains plantings were already complete on 1.5 million hectares of land. That's over 50% of the planned 2.9 million ha, and includes 1.15 million ha of spring barley. In their first look at yields for 2014, the EU Commission's MARS unit forecast the average EU-28 all wheat yield at 5.47 MT/ha, down 1.8% from last year's 5.57 MT/ha, but 2.5% above the 5-year average. Barley yields (both classes) across Europe were forecast averaging 4.59 MT/ha, a 5% decline on last year, but 2.3% above average. Saudi Arabia were said to have 4.0 MMT of barley in strategic reserves, and 2014/15 barley imports are estimated at 6-7 MMT versus 10.65 MMT a year previously. May 14 CBOT Wheat closed at $7.13 1/4, up 20 cents; May 14 KCBT Wheat closed at $7.93 1/4, up 22 cents; May 14 MGEX Wheat closed at $7.61 1/2, up 18 1/4 cents.

EU Grains Rise Again On Heightened Black Sea Tensions

24/03/14 -- EU grains closed mostly higher, helped by a stronger US market as Chicago May 14 wheat rose close to last weeks highs - the best levels for the contract since last June and the highest for a front month in almost a year.

The day closed with May 14 London wheat up GBP1.50/tonne at GBP169.75/tonne, whilst new crop Nov 14 was GBP1.55/tonne firmer at GBP161.55/tonne. May 14 Paris wheat closed EUR3.00/tonne higher at EUR213.75/tonne, Jun 14 Paris corn was up EUR0.50/tonne to EUR186.500tonne and May 14 Paris rapeseed rose EUR3.25/tonne to EUR404.50/tonne.

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia have far from eased over the weekend, as Ukraine's interim President Olexander Turchynov ordered the withdrawal of armed forces from Crimea for the safety of the military and their families under "the pressure and aggression of the Russian army's occupying forces."

With Crimea now under Russian control, the market is wondering what will happen to the eastern Ukraine ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk, which need "to negotiate the narrow Kerch Strait (now under the control of Moscow) between Russia and Crimea to reach Ukraine's grain export buyers, largely in the Middle East and North Africa," said Agrimoney.

For now, grain exports from Ukraine continue at a pace. In fact the pace has picked up in recent weeks, with almost 800 TMT shipped out via it's sea ports alone last week, up from just over 700 TMT the previous week. Last week's total included 655 TMT of corn and 138 TMT of wheat.

Has this, I wonder, got anything to do with Ukraine exporters rushing to get shipments out (and turn inventories into dollars) before/in case it transpires that Moscow's ambitions include a larger slice of the cake than Crimea?

Russian grain exports meanwhile for the Mar 1-19 period totalled 954 TMT, including 503 TMT of wheat, 390 TMT of corn and 53 TMT of barley.

Russia's exports for the 2013/14 campaign so far now total 19.786 MMT, a 40.8% rise on a year previously. That includes 14.574 MMT of wheat, 2.063 MMT of corn and 2.902 MMT of barley.

Closer to home, the EU Commission's MARS unit said that "Crops are advanced in western and central Europe as the mild weather continued in March, and prospects for the new season are generally promising.

Excessive wetness was noted across the winter in "northern Italy, major parts of the British Isles and southeastern France, but a dry period since the beginning of March improved the situation," they said.

"By contrast, the Czech Republic, southeastern Germany, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Turkey experienced one of the driest winter seasons on record. These regions will now need some rain to ensure that soil moisture levels are not depleted too quickly as the water requirements of winter crops increase, and to ensure the emergence of spring crops," they added.

In their first look at yields for 2014, they forecast the average EU-28 all wheat yield at 5.47 MT/ha, down 1.8% from last year's 5.57 MT/ha, but 2.5% above the 5-year average. Wheat yields in the UK were estimated at 7.74 MT/ha, up 4.9% on last year's 7.38 MT/ha and 3.6% above the 5-year average.

Barley yields (both classes) across Europe were forecast averaging 4.59 MT/ha, a 5% decline on last year, but 2.3% above average. The average barley yield in the UK was estimated at 5.69 MT/ha versus 5.85 MT/ha last year and 5.72 MT/ha for the 5-year average.

EU-28 corn yields are seen averaging 7.03 MT/ha, up 6.3% on last year and 2.9% above the 5-year average. OSR yields were forecast to average 3.13 MT/ha, versus 3.09 MT/ha last year and 3.05 MT/ha on average. The UK OSR yield was estimated at 3.52 MT/ha, 18.3% up on last year and 3.3% above the 5-year average.

EU Rapemeal Prices

24/03/14 -- Rapemeal prices on the continent are fully steady on the nears, helped by a firmer tone to the overnight soya market. New crop prices are a little weaker on the outlook for increased 2014 EU-28 production estimates in the weeks ahead.

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

Mar 14