Chicago Closing Comments; Corn, Crisis, What Crisis?

02/05/14 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed higher on the day, but lower for the week following yesterday's rout. Meal ended the week about even, and oil was down heavily compared to last Friday. After yesterday's heavy fall I guess that we could call today consolidation/bargain hunting. There's no denying that nearby US soybean supply is tight, and looks set to remain so through to harvest time. Yesterday's USDA export sales report showed that the US has already shipped nearly 42 MMT of soybeans this season, and has a further 2.6 MMT of as yet unfulfilled sales to execute. The USDA forecast for the season is "only" for exports of 43 MMT. The forecast for the Midwest is drier and warmer, which will be welcomed. The USDA will update us on US soybean planting progress on Monday, with the trade predicting that something in the region of around 10% of the crop will be in the ground, up from 3% a week ago. A year ago only 2% of the crop had been planted by the end of first weekend in May. The Brazilian Ministry said that the country exported 8.25 MMT of beans in April, versus 6.23 MMT in March and 7.15 MMT in April 2013. Meal exports were 1.33 MMT in April versus 727,000 MT in March and 1.26 MMT in April 2013. Stats Canada come out on Monday with their March 31st stocks report. A Reuters survey estimated canola stocks at an average of 9 MMT, which would be a record high for this time of year, and almost double the 4.553 MMT held a year previously. Fund buying in beans was estimated at around 3-4,000 lots on the day. The latest Commitment of Traders report shows them increasing their net long in beans for the week through to Tuesday night by 3,725 contracts, bringing their total net long position to 168,876 lots. May 14 Soybeans closed at $14.80 3/4, up 7 1/4 cents; Jul 14 Soybeans closed at $14.70 3/4, up 9 3/4 cents; May 14 Soybean Meal closed at $491.20, up $4.50; May 14 Soybean Oil closed at 41.29, up 37 points. For the week, May 14 beans fell 17 1/4 cents, with May 14 meal up half a dollar and May 14 oil down 163 points.

Corn: The corn market closed lower, adding to yesterday's declines. An improved weather forecast for the weekend and into the first half of next week maybe got fund money rethinking their strategy to attempt to get a weather market going in corn this early in the season. The USDA are expected to estimate US corn plantings at around 35-40% done on Monday night. That would compare with only 12% done for the first weekend in May twelve months ago. Crisis, what crisis? The CFTC Commitment of Traders report shows fund money increasing their net long position in corn by 27,756 contracts as of Tuesday night, giving them a net long position of 264,391 contracts. They were estimated to have been net sellers of around 7-9,000 contracts today, on top of the 10,000 that they were thought to have jetisonned yesterday. Private exporters reported the sale of 101,600 MT of US old crop corn to unknown destinations. Israel bought 108,000 MT of optional origin corn for Jul/Aug shipment. There were 226 overnight deliveries against the May contract, adding to the bearish tone today. The Brazilian Ministry reported April corn exports at 562,400 MT versus 577,700 MT in March and 606,100 MT in April 2013. Informa estimated the Argentine corn crop at 23.3 MMT and the Brazilian crop at 70.5 MMT. The Buenos Aires Grains Exchange yesterday estimated the Argentine corn crop at 24 MMT. Safras e Mercado recently raised their outlook on Brazil to 73.9 MMT. The USDA will issue revised WASDE estimates of their own next Friday. Last month they had the Argentine corn crop and 24 MMT and Brazilian output at 72 MMT. The USDA will also issue it's first estimates for crop production around the world for the coming 2014/15 season. MDA CropCast yesterday estimated the US corn crop at a record 14 billion bushels, up 2.4% on last year despite a 2.2 million acre decline in planted area. They said that US corn yields would rise by an average 5.3% this year. May 14 Corn closed at $4.94, down 9 1/4 cents; Jul 14 Corn closed at $4.99 1/2, down 7 1/2 cents. For the week May 14 corn was 13 cents lower.

Wheat: The wheat market closed higher, with Kansas wheat leading the way on the back of deteriorating crop conditions on the Plains. Sub-zero temperatures are forecast for the state over the weekend, potentially adding to recent drought woes. Informa Economics estimated the US winter wheat crop at 1.496 billion bushels, down 120 million from last month. That's a 2.5% fall on last year's 1.534 billion bushel crop. MDA Crop Cast yesterday estimated the US winter wheat crop at a very similar 1.5 billion bushels. Informa apparently put the crop in Kansas at 311 million bushels, which is far higher than the 260.7 million finding of this week's Kansas wheat tour. It is also only fractionally down on last year's 319.2 million output. They have Oklahoma's winter wheat crop at 87.5 million bushels, a 17% decline on last year. That may sound a lot, but it's actually far better than the 40% loss in yield being reported by the Oklahoma crop tour this week. The trade clearly thinks/hopes that Informa are wrong. The latest Commitment of Traders report shows fund money increasing their net long in Chicago wheat for the week through to Tuesday night by 15,500 lots, a more than 50% increase, to a net long position of 42,590 contracts. On Monday Stats Canada are expected to report March 31st all wheat stocks there at an average trade estimate of 21.5 MMT, from within a range of estimates of 20.0-22.2 MMT and far higher than 14.471 MMT in 2013 following last year's bumper crop. For Canadian barley stocks the average estimate is 4.7 MMT, from within a range of estimates of 4.5-5.0 MMT and versus 3.044 MMT in 2013. Egypt bought 110 TMT of Russian and Ukraine wheat, with US wheat priced out by around $16/tonne. Dr Cordonnier said that Brazil could produce a record wheat crop this year, with plantings expected to rise to a 10-year high. The state of Parana's output could nearly double to 3.8 MMT, with plantings likely to be completed by the end of May, he said. May 14 CBOT Wheat closed at $7.07 3/4, up 9 cents; May 14 KCBT Wheat closed at $8.31 3/4, up 25 1/2 cents; May 14 MGEX Wheat closed at $7.63, up 14 1/4 cents. For the week May 14 CBOT wheat rose 7 1/2 cents, with Kansas up 56 cents and MGEX up 15 1/2 cents.

EU Grains Lower On The Week As Large Harvest Looms, But Ukraine Situation Supports

02/05/14 -- EU grains finished the day mixed, with May 14 London wheat closing GBP0.50/tonne higher at GBP167.00/tonne, and with new crop Nov 14 London wheat up GBP0.95/tonne at GBP158.20/tonne. May 14 Paris wheat closed unchanged at EUR215.25/tonne, Jun 14 Paris corn was down EUR0.75/tonne at EUR183.75/tonne, whilst Aug 14 Paris rapeseed fell EUR4.00/tonne to EUR359.25/tonne.

For the week, May 14 London wheat fell GBP3.00/tonne, with new crop Nov 14 down GBP1.55/tonne. May 14 Paris wheat slipped EUR2.00/tonne versus last Friday, with Jun 14 corn losing EUR3.50/tonne and Aug 14 rapeseed dropping EUR9.00/tonne.

Egypt's GASC bought one cargo each of Ukraine and Russian origin wheat for Jun 1-10 shipment in it's tender. French and US wheat was outpriced to the tune of $15-16/tonne. Egypt's decision to buy from Ukraine is interesting, given the current political turmoil. It also proves that both Ukraine and Russia still have old crop wheat to sell deep into the 2013/14 campaign. Weakness in their respective local currencies will also assist them in their pricing.

Agritel said that no major areas of Ukraine are expected to go unplanted this spring, although reduced usage of certified seeds, fertiliser and agrochemicals can be expected, suggesting potentially lower yields

Elsewhere, Saudi Arabia are tendering for 550 TMT of wheat, the result of their tenders are often released over the weekend.

The European market appears to be relatively unmoved by the news that the US winter wheat crop is in trouble, perhaps coming to the conclusion that this is a US problem (or even more specifically a Kansas wheat problem), not a European one. The market may have a point.

Wheat, barley and oilseed rape crops across Europe are generally in very good condition, and harvesting is shaping up to come in large and early. After a mild winter crop maturity is well advanced, rapeseed is flowering early - and will likely flower for longer - boosting yields.

FranceAgriMer reported that 97% of the French winter wheat crop is at the 2 node stage, versus only 39% this time a year ago. They said that 6% of the crop is already heading, up from 1% a week ago and against zero this time last year.

French winter barley is 100% at the 2 node stage versus 60% a year ago, and 52% of the crop is heading compared to only 4% this time last year. They said that 21% of the spring barley crop is already displaying an ear of at least 1cm compared to just 4% a year ago.

French corn planting meanwhile is 78% done versus only 53% in 2013, and 39% of the crop is lifting against just 4% this time last year when conditions were very wet.

The French winter wheat crop was rated 73% good/very good, down a point from last week but up compared to 68% this time last year. Winter barley rated good/very good also fell a point on last week to 70%, but that's still 3 points ahead of this time in 2013.

At home, the HGCA said that 95% of the 2014 spring barley crop was planted by the end of April. They said that both winter wheat and barley was well advanced compared with recent seasons.

The pound meanwhile ended the week close to 1.69 against the dollar, it's best level in almost 5 years. Sterling is also not far off 1.22 versus the euro, it hasn't spent any sustained time above that level since 2012.

UK growers remain only relatively lightly sold on new crop wheat and OSR, despite the outlook for a return to "normal" production levels this year. Production levels that will require exports, a thing that won't be aided by the strength of the pound.

Almost all of the above suggests lower domestic prices in the second half of 2014. However, breaking news late Friday and early Saturday that more than 30 people had been killed in a fire that broke out in an Odessa government building, may encourage further speculative money to enter the fray next week.

Odessa is Ukraine's leading grain export hub, the gateway to Europe and North Africa. This is also the first such eruption of major violence in the South/West of the country, and a sign that the unrest in the country isn't any longer mostly confined to the east.

Chicago Grains Tumble, Led By Soybeans

01/05/14 -- General: New month, new money is what they say. This was more like new month, no money. Pretty much everything, bar Kansas wheat, took a pasting today, although it is worth considering that many international participants were away from their desks due to the May Day holiday. Tomorrow's trade could be a little thin too, as some will be making a long weekend of it (Argentina are officially off for another day). Nevertheless, the entire complex appeared to take a step back today an ask itself the question "have we overdone things a little here?" With fund money heavily long across the three pits, a shake out of these sorts was always going to be on the cards sometime. With many away, there probably weren't as many willing buyers out there to absorb active fund selling in grains today, so some might say that this was an over-reaction. However if they don't want to support the market then by the look of today's trade then certainly nobody else does. Volume was quite high given that many were away.

Soycomplex: Beans, meal and oil got shot to pieces, slumping 3.6%, 3.3% and 2.5% respectively (note though that oil was also a big loser yesterday). Fund money was estimated at being net sellers of around 10-12,000 lots on beans. Maybe the market re-considered, and came up with the conclusion that it's too early to get a weather market going in beans just yet -who knows? It is still widely accepted that the US will plant a record soybean area this year, and that Brazilian growers will follow suit (and probably those in Argentina too). Few appear to have seriously considered what happens if the oft quoted "insatiable" Chinese demand actually falters. Consider that the world's largest soybean buyer imports more than five and a half times the volume that the second largest buyer, Europe, does. Weekly export sales offered little support, coming in at net reductions of 16,400 MT in old crop, about what was expected. What wasn't anticipated though, was sales of only 78,900 MT of new crop. MDA CropCast raised their forecast for the 2014 US soybean crop to record 3.575 million bushels, or 97.31 MMT, which is more than 12% up on last year. The Buenos Aires Grains Exchange said that the soybean harvest in Argentina is 56.7% done, which is almost 10 points below last year's pace, producing a crop of 34.7 MMT so far. Rain in the last few days has delayed the harvest a bit further, they said. Still, they stood by their estimate for production of 54.5 MMT this year. Informa are out with their latest crop production estimates tomorrow. The USDA issue theirs next Friday, including their first projections for 2014/15 around the world. They are usually optimistic about production prospects this early in the season, so that could be construed as bearish. May 14 Soybeans closed at $14.73 1/2, down 57 1/4 cents; Jul 14 Soybeans closed at $14.61, down 51 3/4 cents; May 14 Soybean Meal closed at $486.70, down $17.20; May 14 Soybean Oil closed at 40.92, down 96 points.

Corn: The market ended around 10-12 cents lower, with fund money estimated as being a net seller of around 10,000 lots on the day. For all the hype and hysteria about US corn plantings getting off to a bad start, the first of May is surely a bit early to get a weather market going? A mentioned yesterday, US farmers planted 43% of last year's crop in just one week mid-May in 2013. Last year's crop was late planted, but yielded pretty well at the end of the day. MDA CropCast trimmed their forecast for this year's US corn harvest a little, coming up with a figure of 14.014 billion bushels. That's a record crop, and "in English money" one that is 8.3 MMT, or 2.4%, up on last year. There are signs of better weather ahead for the US corn belt. "General improvement in the weather is predicted on Midwest corn farms," said Martell Crop Projections. "Abnormal cold would linger for another few days in the Upper Midwest, but strong warming is predicted beginning Monday and continuing next week," they added. The Buenos Aires Grains Exchange said that the Argentine corn harvest was 25% complete, which is 18 points down on a year ago. They estimated production there at 24 MMT, unchanged from their previous forecast. Weekly US export sales came in at 937,900 MT for old crop and 13,800 MT for new crop. Pre-report estimates had been for sales of a combined 500 TMT to 1.3 MMT for both crop years. Informa are due out tomorrow with their crop production estimates. Last month they had the 2013/14 Brazilian corn crop at 68.0 MMT, and the 2013/14 Argentine corn crop estimated at 23.0 MMT. Safras e Mercado recently raised their outlook on Brazil considerably higher, to 73.9 MMT, up from a previous forecast of 71.2 MMT. May 14 Corn closed at $5.03 1/4, down 10 3/4 cents; Jul 14 Corn closed at $5.07, down 12 cents.

Wheat: The market closed lower, although off session lows. Continued media reports of the poor US winter wheat crop conditions in states such as Kansas and Oklahoma keep grabbing the headlines, preventing the market from falling too far. For the time being at least. The final, and third, day of the Kansas wheat crop tour tour estimated the state yield at 33.2 bu/acre and production at 260.7 million bushels. Yields last year in Kansas were 38 bu/acre and production was 319.2 million bushels, so we are 12.6% down in yield and 18.3% down in output this year. Once again "in English money" that's a production decrease of around 1.5 MMT from the largest wheat producing state in the US. The 40% loss in yield being reported by the Oklahoma crop tour represents an equivalent production decrease of around 1 MMT. I will leave you to decide if the loss of a combined 2.5 MMT between these two justifies the recent market rally. On a national level of course, some US states are reporting better anticipated yields than last year. Overall, MDA CropCast today forecast the US all wheat crop at 57 MMT, down 0.5 MMT from last week, and "only" 1.7 MMT below production in 2013. The USDA will release their first forecasts for US wheat production for the season ahead next week. It would be unusual for them to be quite so bearish on production prospects as early as May. Before that, Informa are due out tomorrow. Last month they had their 2014/15 US winter wheat production estimate at 1.616 billion bushels,which was actually up 82 million versus 2013/14. I guess that a figure around 1.50-1.525 billion may be nearer the mark this time. Weekly US export sales came in at 214,900 MT of old crop and a similar 219,600 MT for shipment in 2014/15. Trade estimates for the report were 150,000–350,000 MT of old crop and 250,00-450,000 MT of new crop. May 14 CBOT Wheat closed at $6.98 3/4, down 14 1/4 cents; May 14 KCBT Wheat closed at $8.06 1/4, down 3 1/2 cents; May 14 MGEX Wheat closed at $7.48 3/4, down 8 1/4 cents.

London Wheat Ends Lower As Paris Takes Day Off

01/05/14 -- French markets were closed today for the May Day holiday, along with much of the rest of the world, although London and Chicago stumbled on. That brought thin trade, but not the general lack of movement that you might expect.

Yet again though, on a day like this fresh news was at something of a premium.

It took until lunchtime to register it's first trade, but the day ended with May 14 London wheat down GBP1.95/tonne to GBP166.50/tonne, and with new crop Nov 14 London wheat closing GBP0.80/tonne lower at GBP157.25/tonne after the Chicago daytime session took a turn for the worst in afternoon trade.

The US wheat crop is looking pretty sick in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. There is little doubting that. However, the market should maybe consider just how important that really is in the overall scheme of things for wheat.

The US produced "only" 8% of the global wheat crop last year (as opposed to 36% of the world's corn), with Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas accounting for a combined 23% of total 2013/14 US all wheat production.

Let's say we peg production across the board in those three states down by 20% this year, that "only" equates to a reduction in world supplies of less than 3 MMT for 2014/15. What's that between friends? A return to "normal" in little old Blighty alone should redress that imbalance come harvest time.

Note too, that although MDA CropCast trimmed their forecast for the US wheat crop today by 0.5 MMT from last week, output of 57 MMT is only down 1.7 MMT on last year - that's less than the production of Tunisia.

Tunisia incidentally yesterday said that they are expecting this year's grain harvest to total 2.2 MMT, a sharp more than 80% rise on output last year, after decent rains during grain filling.

In other news, Brussels announced last night that they'd issued 448 TMT of soft wheat export licences this past week, bringing the year to date total to a record 25.1 MMT. As wheat continues to leave however, corn keeps coming in to replace it. Corn import licences almost matched those for wheat exports, totalling 420 TMT this week.

Meanwhile the EU also awarded the first batch of duty free wheat imports to Ukraine, under a new deal that affords Kiev preferential treatment to export us 950 TMT of wheat/flour tariff-free between now and the end of October.

On the European crop front, things are looking promising. "Satellite imagery reveals strong improvement in crop vegetation between April 1 and month end in Europe’s three top wheat nations of France, Germany and United Kingdom. Increased rainfall and moderating temperatures have contributed to the better vegetation. Warm sunny days and cool nights in Western Europe have also been beneficial for developing wheat the past 2 weeks," say Martell Crop Projections.

"Generous rainfall has not been confined to Western Europe. Strong showers have also developed recently in Eastern Europe, improving the wheat potential in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria too," they added.

In an unusual move, Syria are tendering to sell 200 TMT of wheat to Iran, despite the fact that the former probably need it more than the latter. I wonder what the Syrian government will spend the money on? Sanitation, health, education? I somehow suspect not.

Some Markets Closed Today

01/05/14 -- It's May Day. Or at least it is in some parts of the world. Those work-shy, surrender monkeys the French have got the day off, so don't go expecting a deluge of activity on London wheat today.

Various South American countries are also shut (including Argentina and Brazil), hence the gratuitous seizure of any old opportunity to post a pic of a Brazilian beach volley ball player's arse. That's a ladies arse by the way, just in case you are wondering. You can't be too careful these days can you?

The Chinese are also having a day off I am told. So we can talk about them in confidence. I took my Chinese mate to Twickenham to watch the rugby the other week. It was really funny hearing him sing "sling row, sweet charred shallots..."

The Canadians are in, which is just as well if this headline is anything to go by:

Canada could have an exploding whale problem

Apparently the residents of two Canadian towns are living in fear of a bloated rotting whale carcass exploding all over them at any time. Which for some strange reason puts me in mind of being married to MrsN#1.....

US Weather Supports Chicago Markets

30/04/14 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed mixed. Even though it's only very early days, some are already fretting over cold and wet Midwest weather and the current planting delays that this is causing. Nevertheless, Dr Cordonnier forecast US soybean yields in 2014 at 44-45 bu/acre, which is better than last year, and that was the best year since 2010. He estimated the 2013/14 Brazilian bean crop at a record 86.5 MMT, and the Argentine crop at 53.5 MMT, both unchanged from his previous forecasts. Argentina’s Ag Min estimated Argentina’s bean crop at a record 55 MMT versus a previous estimate of 54 MMT. Oil World estimated the EU-28's Jan/Jun 2014 soybean imports at 7.6 MMT versus 7.1 MMT in the same period in 2013. They estimated Argentina’s March soybean crush at 2.13 MMT versus 1.7 MMT a year ago, and the country's Jan/Mar soybean crush at 5.6 MMT versus 4.6 MMT a year previously. There are reports of at least one cargo of Argentine meal heading to the eastern US, along with several consignments of Brazilian soybeans. Rabobank forecast US soybean prices falling to $12/bushel in Q4 of 2014. Trade estimates for tomorrow's weekly export sales report for beans are in the region of zero to 100 TMT on old crop and 400-500 TMT on new crop. May 14 Soybeans closed at $15.28 3/4, up 4 3/4 cents; Jul 14 Soybeans closed at $15.11 3/4, down 5 1/2 cents; May 14 Soybean Meal closed at $503.50, up $3.60; May 14 Soybean Oil closed at 41.96, down 81 points.

Corn: The corn market closed 2-3 cents lower on what may have been light profit-taking ahead of what is a holiday for many tomorrow (although US markets remain open). Widespread talk/hype over US planting delays continues to support the market, especially with more cold and wet conditions in the forecast for Thursday/Friday, although some warming is predicted for the weekend. This is all very reminiscent of twelve months ago, but as was proven then, modern equipment means that US farmers have the ability to plant one hell of a lot of corn in a week when conditions are conducive. Remember that US farmers sowed 43% of the 2013 crop in a single mid-May week last year. So it's too early just yet to right yields off. Dr Cordonnier seems to agree, he estimated the 2014 corn yield at 163-165 bu/acre - an all time high and around 3-4% higher than last year. He also forecast the 2013/14 Brazilian corn crop at 72.0 MMT and the Argentine crop at 23.5 MMT, both unchanged from last week. The US Energy Dept reported ethanol production in the past week at 898,000 barrels/day, down from 910,000 bpd the previous week, and below the level needed to hit USDA forecasts for the season. Rabobank forecast Q2 2014 US corn prices averaging $5/bu, falling to $4.10/bu by Q1 of 2015. Trade estimates for tomorrow's weekly export sales report for corn are 500 TMT to 1.3 MMT for both crop years. May 14 Corn closed at $5.13 3/4, down 2 cents; Jul 14 Corn closed at $5.19 1/4, down 2 1/4 cents.

Wheat: The wheat market closed firmer on the old chestnuts of declining US winter wheat conditions/reduced yield prospects and Ukraine worries. Day two of the Kansas crop tour entered the southwest of the state, and came up with an average yield estimate of only 30.8 bu/acre versus 37.1 bu/acre a year ago. That's a 17% decline. Day one of the tour found yield potential 21% down on a year ago. An Oklahoma crop tour this week found an average yield potential of only 18.52 bu/acre - the lowest since 1967 and 40% down on 31 bu/acre in 2013. Luckily, things aren't as bad in some other states versus 12 months ago though. The Colorado Association of Wheat Growers estimated the 2014 wheat yield there at 32.0 bu/acre versus 27.0 bu/acre a year ago. In Nebraska they are seen at 40-45 bu/acre versus 35 bu/acre a year ago. Despite doom and gloom for the US wheat crop this year, prospects elsewhere around the globe look generally much rosier. That was sufficient reason for Rabobank to forecast US wheat prices falling from an average $7/bu in Q2 of 2014 to $5.60/bu in Q4, a slide of around 25% based on tonight's Chicago closing level for the Dec 14 future. Trade estimates for tomorrow's weekly export sales report for wheat are 150,000–350,000 MT of old crop and 250,00-450,000 MT of new crop. May 14 CBOT Wheat closed at $7.13, up 5 cents; May 14 KCBT Wheat closed at $8.09, up 11 3/4 cents; May 14 MGEX Wheat closed at $7.57, up 9 3/4 cents.

EU Grains Mostly Lower, Fresh News Lacking

30/04/14 -- EU grains closed mixed, but mostly a little lower on the day. Once again fresh news was relatively thin on the ground. Declining US winter wheat crop conditions and early planting delays for corn and soybeans support the market for the time being, as too does the ongoing Ukraine crisis.

Spring grain plantings are going well in Europe and the FSU though, and winter crop conditions are mostly very good. Winter crops in these regions are 2-4 weeks ahead of normal development, which potentially bodes well for an early harvest and decent yields.

May 14 London ended GBP0.55/tonne lower at GBP168.45/tonne, and new crop Nov 14 fell GBP0.10/tonne to GBP15.05/tonne. May 14 Paris wheat closed EUR0.50/tonne higher at EUR215.25/tonne, Jun 14 Paris corn fell EUR0.50/tonne to EUR184.50tonne and technical May 14 Paris rapeseed expired EUR5.50/tonne firmrer at EUR416.00/tonne. Other rapeseed months were around EUR2.50/tonne lower, new crop Aug 14 will be the new front month tomorrow.

The German Stats Office said that the country had exported 10.4 MMT of grains in the Jul/Feb period, a rise of 18% on twelve months previously. That includes 6.5 MMT of wheat (up from 4.8 MMT a year previously), and 1.7 MMT of barley (versus 1.2 MMT in 2012/13). They'd also imported 6.5 MMT of grains, including 2.7 MMT of wheat (versus 2.5 MMT in 2012/13) and 1.9 MMT of corn, the latter being a 27% increase on the same period twelve months previously.

What is particularly striking about these numbers is that total grain exports to fellow EU destinations actually fell 17% to 4.8 MMT, whist shipments to non-EU homes were up 87% to 5.6 MMT. A lot of the reason behind the latter will be due to the relaxation of EU sanctions against Iran, prompting them to stock up on wheat, much of it German origin, in recent months.

Russia said that farmers there had planted 6.8 million hectares of spring grains, a 21% advance on this time last year. Spring wheat plantings account for 720,500 ha, which is 5.5% of plan, up almost 400,000 ha on a year ago. Spring barley has been planted on 3.6 million ha, which is 41% of plan, and versus 2.9 million ha this time last year. Corn has been sown on 1.2 million ha (46% of plan), which is almost 250,000 ha more than this time in 2013.

In Belarus early spring grain planting, including corn, is already over, at more than 1 million ha.

In Ukraine, spring plantings are also ahead of last year, despite the political turmoil. "Recent rain in central and western regions helped the over-wintered crops and newly planted spring crops and they are looking very good at the moment. Crops further east are starting to show signs of stress from a lack of water however," said Ukraine agronomist Mike Lee.

"The season is about twenty days earlier than last year which will have the effect of increasing the yield potential for all crops assuming the season ahead is conducive to growing. However any yield potential will be restricted by a lack of finance, inflation, exchange rate fluctuations and general uncertainty which will discourage a high level of investment in to this year’s crop, particularly fertiliser," he noted.

"Gas prices going up (Russia supplies Ukraine with gas) will make grain drying expensive so I anticipate a drop in maize planting to be replaced with sunflower or even fallow. We are about half way through sunflower planting and about a third of the maize crop is now in the ground," he added.

Rabobank said that whilst Chicago wheat might average around $7/bushel in Q2 of 2014, prices will fall to around $5.60/bushel in Q4. That's almost 25% lower than where the Dec 14 future currently trades. A corresponding 25% drop in the price of Jan 15 London wheat, which will be the front month at the end of the year, would knock almost GBP40/tonne off where prices currently reside!

Chicago Jumps On Weather Concerns

29/04/14 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed with Jul 14 at contract closing highs and with new crop Nov 14 at the best levels since last July. Fund buying was estimated at a net 4,000 soybean contracts on the day, seemingly thinking that last night's announcement from the USDA that soybean planting across the US is "only" 3% complete, a whole one percentage point behind the 5-year average, is in some way significant. "The bulls are talking up cold and wet weather and planting delays but anyone betting against the US farmer should have their head examined. This crop will get in. Last year we experienced 100 year (record) rains and the crop still got in," one market observer sagely commented. Yields weren't ultimately too bad last year either at the end of the day, the best in fact since 2010. Production is what it's all about, and with $15 beans, record plantings look assured. A summer weather market will probably develop, one usually does, but the balance of probability suggests that record plantings will probably equal record production come the autumn. Consider too that Brazilian growers are also expected to plant a record 2014/15 crop, starting mid-September, hotly followed on the heels by Argentine farmers. Faced with that kind of potential deluge in supply the bulls need a serious weather problem AND Chinese demand to hold up. Neither looks assured at the moment. May 14 Soybeans closed at $15.24, up 15 3/4 cents; Jul 14 Soybeans closed at $15.17 1/4, up 17 1/4 cents; May 14 Soybean Meal closed at $499.90, up $3.00; May 14 Soybean Oil closed at 42.77, up 15 points.

Corn: The corn market posted decent gains or around 5-8 cents on the day. Funds were seen as net buyers of around 6,000 contracts on the day, enthused by the relatively slow start to the US spring planting season, and the forecast for cold and wet weather to hit the Midwest through to the weekend. The same comments that apply to the bulls getting excited about late planted soybeans also apply to corn. Last year's crop was similarly late, and US growers still brought in a record crop that ultimately yielded well. Other than that, fresh news was lacking. Ukraine is estimated to have around 40% of it's 2014 corn crop in the ground. Planting is also underway in Russia and other eastern European nations. It is also well advanced for the time of year in France - reported on Friday by FranceAgriMer at 68% complete, up 29 points in a week and versus only 25% sown this time a year ago. Brazil's safrinha corn crop meanwhile is said to be developing well, so much so that Safras e Mercado have just raised their estimate for Brazil’s 2013/14 total corn crop to 73.9 MMT, up from a previous forecast of 71.2 MMT. Ukraine said that it had exported a record 18.43 MMT of corn already this season. Tomorrow brings the usual weekly ethanol production data from the US Energy Dept. Last week's output was 910k barrels/day versus the circa 938k bpd required to hit the USDA's target for the season. May 14 Corn closed at $5.15 3/4, up 8 cents; Jul 14 Corn closed at $5.21 1/2, up 7 3/4 cents.

Wheat: The wheat market closed higher, with Kansas wheat displaying the most strength. Reuters reported that day one of the Wheat Quality Council's three-day crop tour found a yield potential of only 34.7 bu/acre, down sharply from 43.8 bu/acre a year ago (which is also the 5-year average finding), and said to be the lowest result in 13 years. "The crop is even worse than I expected it to be," one analyst on the tour was quoted as saying. Statewide Kansas wheat yields averaged 38 bu/acre last year, when the state produced almost 21% of the US winter wheat crop, and 15% of the nation's all wheat crop. "At this point in the growing season, you’d have to say that KS is holding on to production of 300 mb by a finger nail, but production is probably already a touch below that," said Benson Quinn Commodities. Output last year was 319 million bushels. Things are looking better in Nebraska though, where wheat yields should average 40 to 45 bu/acre, according to the executive director of the Nebraska Wheat Board. That's better than only 35 bu/acre last year. Internationally, Ethiopia has tendered to buy 70,000 MT of optional origin milling wheat. Lebanon picked up a best offer of Ukraine origin milling wheat in a tender to buy 30,000 MT for May shipment. The Philippines bought 52,500 MT of Australian origin feed wheat in a tender to buy 90,000 MT for Jun/Jul shipment. Argentina authorised a further 500,000 MT of wheat for export. May 14 CBOT Wheat closed at $7.08, up 7 3/4 cents; May 14 KCBT Wheat closed at $7.97 1/4, up 14 cents; May 14 MGEX Wheat closed at $7.46 1/4, down 4 cents.

EU Grains End Quiet Session Mostly Lower

29/04/14 -- EU grains finished a quiet day mostly lower, with May 14 London wheat closing GBP0.80/tonne easier at GBP169.00/tonne, and with new crop Nov 14 London wheat down GBP0.60/tonne at GBP158.15/tonne. May 14 Paris wheat closed EUR0.25/tonne lower at EUR214.25/tonne, Jun 14 Paris corn was unchanged at EUR185.00/tonne, whilst expiring tomorrow and very technical May 14 Paris rapeseed jumped EUR8.700/tonne to EUR410.50/tonne.

Improved weather conditions in Europe put the market on the defensive, although other than that fresh news was relatively limited. Concerns over declining US winter wheat crop conditions, and heightened Ukraine tensions, continue to grab the market's interest at the moment too, underpinning downside.

Ukraine said that it had exported 29.35 MMT of grains so far this season, including 18.43 MMT of corn, 8.34 MMT of wheat and 2.26 MMT of barley.

The best two offers in a Lebanese tender for 30,000 MT of milling wheat for May shipment were said to be of Ukraine origin, as their exports continue pretty much unhindered.

The Russian Ag Minster said that the country's winter grain losses were only a maximum of 5% versus a 10-year average of 9.1%. That should at least partially compensate for reduced winter plantings due to wet weather last autumn. Russian growers only sowed 14.7 million hectares of winter grains in 2013 versus 16.3 million a year previously.

US winter wheat crop conditions fell again overnight, although the proportion of the crop rated good/excellent is unchanged from a year go at 33%.

Speculative money still seems to fancy pressing the pedal higher, but this is a very dangerous game and one in which they can change their mind at any time on a whim, as we have seen before.

Bears would note that last year's US wheat crop is in an almost identical condition to this year's, and that corn and soybean plantings are similarly delayed, yet prices fell heavily during the course of the latter half 2013.

A year ago to this day spot CBOT corn closed at $6.84/bushel, only to end the year at $4.22/bushel, for a 38% decline. CBOT wheat fell 14.7% and soybeans by 10.8% during the same period.

Where we will end 2014 only time will tell, but without the intervention of the unexpected Russian seizure of Crimea, and the subsequent problems between Putin and the West, we'd almost certainly see the grain markets significantly lower than where they are now.

The bulls will continue to predict the unpredictable, no doubt.

This doesn't rule out another unforeseen weather/geopolitical issue later in the year, but nor does it factor in a decent crop year for the Black Sea, Europe, Canada or Australia.

As confidence grows in a decent crop year in Europe for 2014, downside potential may well increase on the London/Paris markets. Note that traditionally EU wheat markets often peak in May.

Chicago Grains Mostly Firmer As Wheat Conditions Decline, Corn Planting Lags

28/04/14 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed mostly up, but off the highs. Weekly export inspections of 254,299 MT were better than 153,963 MT last week. That takes the cumulative 2013/14 total to date to 41.35 MMT versus a USDA target for the entire season of 43 MMT, and well ahead of less than 34 MMT this time a year ago. Safras e Mercado said that Brazil has now harvested 94% of their 2013/14 soybean crop. Oil World estimated production there at a record 86.2 MMT versus 81.5 MMT a year ago. Bunge's CEO was quoted as saying that poor crushing margins in China are a short term problem and that things should improve in the next 2-3 months. Dry weather in Argentina is seen aiding the soybean harvest there this week - estimated at 42.5% done last week by the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange. Production there is forecast in the region of 54 MMT versus 49.3 MMT a year ago. The USDA gave it's first estimate of the season for US 2014 soybean plantings, saying that 3% of the crop was in the ground nationally as of Sunday night, versus 4% for the 5-year average. That's in line with trade expectations. The southern states of LA, MS and AR are the most advanced as you might expect at 55%, 24% and 16% done respectively. May 14 Soybeans closed at $15.08 1/4, up 10 1/4 cents; Jul 14 Soybeans closed at $15.00, up 5 3/4 cents; May 14 Soybean Meal closed at $496.90, up $6.30; May 14 Soybean Oil closed at 42.62, down 30 points.

Corn: The market ended around a cent or so higher. Weekly export inspections of 1,156,332 MT today were down on 1,633,180 MT last week, but still respectable. The marketing year to date now stands at 28 MMT versus 12.2 MMT a year ago and the USDA forecast of 45 MMT for the full season. Prospects for Brazil's safrinha, or second crop, corn continue to look promising. Safras e Mercado estimated Brazil’s 2013/14 total corn crop at 73.9 MMT, up from a previous estimate of 71.2 MMT, although still down on the record 2012/13 crop of 82.1 MMT. The Safras estimate is also significantly higher than the USDA's current 72 MMT forecast. The USDA said that 19% of the US 2014 corn crop was planted as of Sunday night. That was below the average trade guess of 21%, but within the range of trade estimates. Again, it's the southern states that are generally the most advanced, although they still lag, with TX on 64% complete (versus the 5-year average of 69%), NC is 60% done (versus 79% normally) and TN is 53% planted (versus 59% on average). Despite all the talk of notable planting delays in the Midwest, IL is 32% done, up from on 5% a week ago and almost in line with the 33% "norm". Indiana, Iowa and Ohio however all lag the 5-year average pace by 18 points each. The USDA put corn emergence at 3% against 6% on average at this time. The Midwest weather outlook for the rest of the week isn't friendly - generally wet and cold. May 14 Corn closed at $5.07 3/4, up 3/4 cent; Jul 14 Corn closed at $5.13 3/4, up 1 cent.

Wheat: The market closed mostly a little firmer, having traded both sides in the overnight session. Weekly export inspections of 631,021 MT, up from 508,128 MT last week were supportive. The 2013/14 year to date total is now 28.4 MMT versus 24.6 MMT a year ago and a USDA forecast for full season exports of 31.5 MMT. Note though that the US wheat marketing year finishes at the end of May. Increased tensions once again in Ukraine over the weekend keep adding support to the wheat market, as to do deteriorating US crop conditions. The USDA placed the US winter wheat crop at 33% good/excellent, down a point on a week ago, and the same as this time last year. The top producing state of Kansas is now only 21% good/excellent versus 24% a week ago. Oklahoma is 9% good/excellent against 11% last week. On a national level 34% of the crop is rated poor/very poor, up a point on last week. Kansas poor/very poor is up 5 points from last week to 37%, Oklahoma is up 4 points in these bottom two categories to 65%. The USDA said that 18% of the crop is headed versus 9% last week and 26% on average. Spring wheat meanwhile is 18% planted, up from 10% a week ago but down on 26% normally. Spring wheat emergence is at 5% versus 9% for the 5-year average. A US wheat crop tour starts next week in the US Plains. The Philippines are in the market for 90,000 MT of optional origin feed wheat for July shipment. May 14 CBOT Wheat closed at $7.00 1/4, unchanged; May 14 KCBT Wheat closed at $7.83 1/4, up 7 1/2 cents; May 14 MGEX Wheat closed at $7.50 1/2, up 3 cents.

EU Grains Mostly Lower To Start Week In Low Volume Trade

28/04/14 -- EU grains closed mostly lower, in a quiet, low volume start to the week.

The day ended with May 14 London wheat down GBP0.20/tonne to GBP169.80/tonne, and with new crop Nov 14 London wheat closing GBP1.00/tonne lower at GBP158.75/tonne. May 14 Paris wheat closed down EUR2.25/tonne at EUR215.00/tonne, Jun 14 Paris corn was also down EUR2.25/tonne at EUR185.00/tonne, whilst May 14 Paris rapeseed corrected some of the steep losses of the latter half of last week, ending EUR6.50/tonne higher to close at EUR402.50/tonne.

Fresh fundamental news was generally lacking, although the ever present Ukraine tensions are keeping the market nervous.

The mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine, was shot and critically wounded as pro-Russian separatists continue to run amok in the east of the country. The US apparently froze the assets of, and imposed visa bans on, several powerful Russian businessmen and politicians, said to be close to President Putin. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is also warning Russia of sanctions over its failure to help stem the Ukraine crisis, saying it has ignored the steps recently agreed in Geneva to stem the unrest.

Amidst all the political gesturing though, for the time being at least, exports and spring planting appear to be continuing more or less as normal.

APK Inform said that Ukraine seaports had exported 455.5 TMT of grains last week, up 17% from the 390 TMT shipped out the previous week. That total included 284.4 TMT (up from 176.7 TMT a week previously) of corn and 148.7 TMT (versus 154.5 TMT) of wheat.

Ukraine's 2013/14 marketing year to date grain exports now stand at more than 29 MMT, versus a full season Ministry target of 33 MMT. APK Inform's 2013/14 grain export estimate of 31.1 MMT may prove to be closer to the mark. Either one would be a record, in fact 29 MMT is already an all-time high.

Early spring grain planting in Ukraine, excluding corn, is already over at 2.6 million hectares. Growers there have also sown 2.07 million ha of corn, which is 40% of plan, along with 2.64 million ha of sunflower (61%) and 350k ha of soybeans (21%), according to the Ag Ministry. Agritel said that recent rains had created good sowing conditions.

Russia's Ag Ministry said that the country had planted 4.8 million hectares of spring grains as of last Friday, which is around 15% of the intended area.

Rusagrotans said that Russia's 2014/15 grain harvest would come in somewhere between 92 MMT and 96.2 MMT, slightly lower than the Russian Ag Minister's forecast of 95-97 MMT. They said that production in the southern, Volga and Urals regions would be higher than last year, and output would be lower in the Black Earth and Siberian regions.

In Belarus, early spring grains have been planted on 1 million ha, which is 94% of plan, along with 435.6k ha of corn (55% of plan). Kazakhstan's early spring plantings meanwhile are said to be almost 39% complete.

The 15 day weather forecast for the coming period sees almost all of Europe wetter than normal, with the exception of western France, and Spain and Portugal. Eastern Europe, Ukraine and most of Russia should also see better than normal precipitation, although the GFS model sees Kazakhstan staying mostly dry.

US winter wheat in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas will continue to receive precipitation totals below normal, fuelling further yield loss ideas there. The USDA will report on US winter wheat conditions later tonight, with further deterioration on last week's 34% good/excellent seemingly likely.

We will also get to find out what the state of play is with corn planting in the US. Last week the USDA said that only 6% of the 2014 US corn crop was in the ground, versus the 5-year average of 14%. A Reuters poll puts the range of trade estimates for tonight's report at 17-28%. I'd be at the low end of that range, possibly even below it.