Chicago Grains Closing Comments - Friday

19/12/14 -- Soycomplex: Beans and meal closed with small losses on the day and the week. "Market makers have either stepped to sidelines ahead of the holiday or already out of office for the Christmas break. And that left us with a featureless session," said Benson Quinn. Informa forecast US 2015 soybean plantings at 88.8 million acres, which was far higher than yesterday's USDA baseline projection of only 84 million. It was also a little bit higher than their previous estimate of 88.35 million and would set a new soybean area record. Using a trendline yield of 45 bu/acre then that would give the US a crop of 3.959 billion bushels next year, a total almost identical to this year. That will follow on from what is expected to be a record Brazilian crop and at least near record Argentine production. Jan 15 Soybeans closed at $10.30 1/2, down 4 1/2 cents; Mar 15 Soybeans closed at $10.38 1/2, down 4 3/4 cents; Jan 15 Soybean Meal closed at $363.50, down $1.80; Jan 15 Soybean Oil closed at 31.97, up 8 points. For the week beans were down 16 3/4 cents, with meal losing $3.50 and oil slipping 33 points.

Corn: The corn market closed slightly lower on the day, but with modest gains for the week. Corn put up a decent performance today, given the weakness in wheat to end the week. "Funds were estimated sellers of 2,000 to 3,000 corn contracts, which typically wouldn’t have much effect at all. It didn’t feel like the producer was interested in selling corn ahead of the weekend," noted Benson Quinn. Informa trimmed their forecast for US corn plantings in 2015 from 88.3 million acres to 88 million, the same as the USDA gave us in yesterday's baseline projections. The USDA's figure for this season is 90.855 million, so that would be a drop of a little over 3%. A firmer tone to the crude oil market may have lent some support today. Good interest from China for US DDGS is still being reported, on top of the recently announced 900 TMT in sales, which is friendly for continued buoyant ethanol production, and subsequent domestic corn demand. The ethanol market has been doing its best to ignore the recent demise of crude oil. Mar 15 Corn closed at $4.10 1/2, down 1/2 cent' May 15 Corn closed at $4.19, down 1/2 cent. For the week, Mar 15 corn was up 3 cents.

Wheat: The wheat market closed lower on the day, but higher for the week. Some are saying that this was an overdue correction, and that the rises seen earlier in the week were overdone. The market is now trying to figure out if the Russian news is fully priced in. The Russian state owned grain company are said to be due to begin buying grain for the intervention fund at the newly revised higher prices next week. It will be interesting to see how successful, or otherwise, they are. Volumes up until now have been pretty low. A new development is that "India expressed interest in offering wheat to the global market, which would very likely take place if values remain high," said Benson Quinn. They'll be harvestin again come March. Informa estimated the US all wheat acreage at 56.8 million versus the USDA's baseline projection of 56 million. Ukraine said that they'd exported 17.5 MMT of grains so far this season, including 7.8 MMT of wheat. The USDA has them down to export 10.3 MMT of wheat this season, so they've currently shipped out more than 75% of that target. Mar 15 CBOT Wheat closed at $6.32 1/4, down 23 cents; Mar 15 KCBT Wheat closed at $6.66, down 17 3/4 cents; Mar 15 MGEX Wheat closed at $6.48 1/4, down 12 3/4 cents. For the week that still leaves Mar 15 Chicago wheat 25 3/4 cents higher, with Kansas up 31 3/4 cents firmer and Minneapolis up 27 1/2 cents.

EU Grains Consolidate Ahead Of Weekend

19/12/14 -- EU grains closed lower, with wheat giving up a fair chunk of the week's gains, even so wheat both side of the Channel and rapeseed still posted decent advance compared with last Friday.

The day ended with Jan 15 London wheat down GBP3.10/tonne to GBP132.30/tonne, Jan 15 Paris wheat was EUR4.25/tonne lower at EUR196.00/tonne, Jan 15 Paris corn was EUR1.50/tonne easier at EUR156.50/tonne, whilst Feb 15 Paris rapeseed ended down EUR0.25/tonne at EUR349.25/tonne.

For the week London wheat finished GBP2.10/tonne higher, with Paris wheat up EUR7.25/tonne and rapeseed EUR6.50/tonne firmer. Corn lost EUR0.75/tonne.

I guess that weakness in wheat today could be attributed to profit-taking ahead of the weekend and with next week's trade likely to be thin in a holiday shortened week. Russia still dominates the news.

The Russian Association of Grain Exporters, who Agrimoney say handles 75% of the country's foreign grain shipments, said it had stopped buying on the domestic market "due to the current conditions and circumstances which are beyond their control."

In a statement that may have lost something in translation they were quoted as saying that they will also "prevent further implementation of export contracts as well...due to their civic awareness and the Union’s responsibilities."

Members of the Association include most of the leading names in the business, such as Cargill, Louis Dreyfus, Bunge, Aston, Valars etc. Reports also suggest that the Association said that it urged other non-member companies to join the initiative. It looks like those not wishing to do so will simply have the appropriate paperwork withheld anyway.

Reports still persist of vessels loaded with grain sat idle waiting for the necessary documentation to leave port, including at least one destined for Egypt - a supposed "approved" destination.

Private Egyptian buyers are said to be stepping up their interest in wheat from other origins like Ukraine and Europe.

Brussels said that they'd issued almost 514 MT worth of soft wheat export licences this past week, up from 344 TMT a week ago. That takes the total volume released so far to 13.6 MMT.

Looking ahead, "very serious drought persists in key winter wheat areas, despite the snow, central Ukraine, Russia Black Earth and Volga districts all receiving less than 40% of normal moisture in the past month. Krasnodar, one of the highest yielding wheat areas in the country, in southern Russia is also very dry," said Martell Crop Projections.

Chicago Grain End Higher, But Wheat Well Off Overnight Highs

18/12/14 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed higher. Weekly export sales of more than 1 MMT were better than expected, even if 350 TMT of that total was for 2015/16 shipment. Old crop sales of 696,000 MT included 402,400 MT to China. Actual shipments were nearly 1.9 MMT, taking total commitments so far this season to 86% of the USDA's target for the season versus 79% normally. The USDA released their baseline projections, putting the US 2015 soybean planted area at 84 million acres versus private estimates of around 88 million. The Argentine Ag Ministry forecast the 2014/15 soybean planted area at 20.2 million hectares, up 2.2% on last year. They say that Argentine farmers have sold 73% of their old crop beans versus 81% a year ago, and 4.4% of their new crop against 4.8% a year ago. Jan 15 Soybeans closed at $10.35, up 8 cents; Mar 15 Soybeans closed at $10.43 1/4, up 8 cents; Jan 15 Soybean Meal closed at $365.30, up $6.00; Jan 15 Soybean Oil closed at 31.89, up 12 points.

Corn: The corn market closed around 2-3 cents firmer. Weekly export sales of 693,500 MT for 2014/15 and 5,000 MT for 2015/16 were in line with expectations. Actual shipments of 754,000 MT were up 11 percent from the previous week and 24 percent above the prior 4-week average. Total commitments so far this season are 55% of the USDA forecast versus 56% normally. The USDA's baseline projections for next year are using a corn planted area figure of 88 million acres. The Argentine Ag Ministry forecast corn plantings this year down almost 10% at 5.5 million hectares. They said that Argentine growers have now got 91.6% of their old crop corn sold versus 84.3% a year ago. New crop sales are at 16.2% versus 6.4% a year ago. Strategie Grains forecast the EU 28 corn crop in 2015 at 67.6 MMT, a 9% drop on this year. France, Romania and Hungary will see a combined drop of 4 MMT in output, they said. Mar 15 Corn closed at $4.11, up 2 3/4 cents; May 15 Corn closed at $4.19 1/2, up 3 cents.

Wheat: The wheat market closed higher, although well off the overnight session highs. Weekly export sales of 476,300 MT for 2014/15 and 33,200 MT for 2015/16 were in line with trade ideas. The Russian rouble appears to have stabilised, at least for now. Reports out of there still suggest problems in obtaining the necessary phytosanitary certificates for vessels to sail."At times, the market feels like it is ready to roll over. However, it doesn’t feel like the speculative seller trusts the wheat market or what the next move in Russia could be," said Benson Quinn Commodities. The Argentine Ag Ministry forecast their 2014/15 wheat crop at 13.2 MMT, a 43.5% increase on last year. Very acceptable yields have been obtained so far, they said. They estimated the crop at 60% harvested. Strategie Grains estimated the EU 28 soft wheat crop at 140.2 MMT next year, with all wheat production at 148.1 MMT. The USDA baseline projection for US wheat plantings for the 2015 harvest is 56 million acres. Mar 15 CBOT Wheat closed at $6.55 1/4, up 6 3/4 cents; Mar 15 KCBT Wheat closed at $6.83 3/4, up 2 1/4 cents; Mar 15 MGEX Wheat closed at $6.61, up 1 1/4 cents.

EU Wheat Gives Up Most Of It's Early Gains

18/12/14 -- EU grains finished the day mixed. Wheat arced to fresh highs for the move shortly after the opening bell, but gave up a lot of those gains by the end of the session.

The day ended with Jan 15 London wheat down GBP0.50/tonne to GBP135.40/tonne; Jan 15 Paris wheat was EUR1.50/tonne firmer at EUR200.25/tonne; Jan 15 Paris corn rose EUR2.25/tonne to EUR158.00/tonne; Feb 15 Paris rapeseed jumped EUR4.75/tonne to EUR349.50/tonne.

Jan 15 Paris wheat traded as high as EUR209.25/tonne at one point, more than ten euros up on last night's close.

The news out of Russia appears to confirm that they have created a 'de facto' grain export ban to all but Egypt, Turkey, Armenia and India - and only the former two countries are significant buyers of Russian wheat.

Egypt say that they are confident that they will get everything they have bought of Russian origin, and they probably will, along with Turkey. Whether they will be able to purchase anything else depends on whether Russian exporters fancy sticking their neck out.

Sources in Russia suggest that staff at the Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance Service (VPSS), who are responsible for issuing export licences, have been quietly told to withhold certificates for all but the four destinations mentioned above.

Essentially this would appear to mean that Russia are out of the export market, for all but these four, for the time being. Even if Egypt are an approved home, there are reports of delays in obtaining the necessary certificates for vessels bound for that destination too in recent weeks.

Other countries with Russian wheat already bought will now be considering their position, and presumably looking for the sellers involved to arrange delivery from other origins. Depending on the price involved these exporters might start talking force majuere that they can't supply the originally contracted grain. Either way, it creates more buying interest for other origins, like Europe.

This is a bit of a windfall opportunity for European and other sellers, who generally have plenty of wheat still to sell. How high prices might yet go is open to conjecture, ultimately knocking two, three, or even more million tonnes off Russia's 2014/15 grain exports doesn't really make a huge difference to the global supply and demand situation. 

The rouble has finally arrested its steep decline, after massive Central Bank intervention and a huge hike in interest rates to an eye watering 17%, although few would bet against another period of weakness.

Prospects for production in 2015 are still under a large cloud of uncertainty, and these could really put some fuel on the fire yet.

Meanwhile, talking of 2015 crop prospects, French analysts Strategie Grains today forecast the EU 28 soft wheat crop at 140.2 MMT next year, a 5% fall versus 2014. The UK and Germany will each see a 2 MMT fall in output, they said. 

Barley production will drop 4% to 58 MMT, and the EU 28 corn crop will decline 9% to 67.6 MMT, they added.

Their figures are pretty similar to those of Copa Cogeca from the other day, they went for 139.75 MMT, 55.8 MMT and 68.8 MMT respectively.

Chicago Grains End Higher, Led By Wheat

17/12/14 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed with small gains at the end of a two-sided session. A trade delegation of Chinese buyers in Chicago were reported to have signed "showcase" deals to import 1 MMT of US soybeans. Abiove estimated Brazil’s 2014/15 bean crop at 91.0 MMT, unchanged from their previous estimate and well below the CONAB estimate of 95.8 MMT and the USDA's 94 MMT forecast. "Weather outlooks continue to have Brazilian production areas getting adequate moisture for their crops with some press given to the drier areas in Argentina as having potential to a reduction in production," said Benson Quinn. There's some talk of increased US soybean sales to Cuba following comments from the Obama administration seeking to end more than 50 years of hostility between the two countries. Trade estimates for tomorrow's weekly export sales report are in the region of 600-800 TMT for beans. Jan 15 Soybeans closed at $10.27, up 3 1/2 cents; Mar 15 Soybeans closed at $10.35 1/4, up 4 cents; Jan 15 Soybean Meal closed at $359.30, up $2.70; Jan 15 Soybean Oil closed at $31.77, unchanged.

Corn: The corn market also posted small advances of a couple of cents or so, helped by surging wheat prices. Some news agencies reported that China had approved MIR 162 corn for import, although Reuters said that three sources at large Chinese corn importers that they had contacted said that they had received no such notification as yet. They also reported Chinese buyers booking 900 TMT of US DDGS in the past week, with state-owned COFCO the main buyer. That's something that they'd be unlikely to do without knowledge that approval of MIR 162 was imminent. If they know it's coming then they may have decided to act now before DDGS prices went up, it is thought. US ethanol production was reported at a new record 990,000 barrels/day - the third record week in the past four. South Korea's MFG bought 126,000 MT of optional origin corn for April shipment. South American weather remains generally favourable, although there's some talk creeping in of developing dryness in parts of Argentina. Martell Crop Projections report that "weather conditions in the Midwest have grown progressively drier over the past several weeks. This is reflective of an emerging El Nino, as Midwest winters are often very dry with El Nino." Weekly export sales tomorrow are expected to be around 600-800 TMT. Mar 15 Corn closed at $4.08 1/4, up 2 1/4 cents; May 15 Corn closed at $4.16 1/2, up 2 cents.

Wheat: The wheat market closed with strong gains. Turmoil in Russia is the main reason. Various reports appear to confirm that exporters are having extreme difficulty getting export certificates in a timely manner. It's being suggested that Turkey, Egypt, Armenia and India are being singled out for referential treatment, and exports to those destinations will get pushed through, but everybody else can go and whistle. This appears to have brought trade in Russian wheat to a virtual standstill very quickly. Exporters don't want to sell, for fear of getting caught having to pay expensive demurrage bills as vessels sit at the quayside waiting for customs clearance. That means that also neither are they a buyer on the domestic market all of a sudden. That leaves the government's intervention fund program looking a more attractive proposition than it has up until now. There are reports of Argentine wheat now trading into African and Middle Eastern homes, where buyers are shying away from even considering Russian wheat. There should also be a pick up in interest for EU and US wheat too. Note too the absence of large Russian wheat buyer Saudi Arabia from the unofficial list of approved homes. Is that just a coincidence, or a poke in the eye for the country seen by many as being responsible for the collapse in crude oil prices that is causing Russia so much stress at the moment? Mar 15 CBOT Wheat closed at $6.48 1/2, up 25 1/4 cents; Mar 15 KCBT Wheat closed at $6.81 1/2, up 26 3/4 cents; Mar 15 MGEX Wheat closed at $6.59 3/4, up 25 1/2 cents.

EU Wheat Hits Highest Since May On Russian Situation

17/12/14 -- EU grains closed mixed, but with wheat marching on to fresh highs for the move on the developing Russian situation. Paris wheat came within a whisker of EUR200/tonne, we haven't seen a front month close at that level since May.

At the finish Jan 15 London wheat was up GBP1.90/tonne at GBP135.90/tonne, Jan 15 Paris wheat jumped EUR3.75/tonne to EUR198.50/tonne, Jan 15 Paris corn was EUR2.75/tonne lower at EUR155.75/tonne, whilst Feb 15 Paris rapeseed was up EUR0.75/tonne to EUR344.75/tonne.

SovEcon said that there are "huge issues" with grain export licences in Russia at the moment, apparently confirming recent rumours.

There's more than one way to skin a cat, who needs to upset the WTO with an export ban when the same effect can ultimately be achieved via red tape?

Having loaded vessels sat around waiting for the appropriate paperwork for days/weeks on end before they can sail is a very expensive exercise indeed, and one that exporters won't want to be picking up the tab for.

Most buyers will be keen to avoid this sort of disruption too, and will soon turn to other origins that are able to ship on time.

The HGCA  meanwhile said that the recent alarming slump in value of the rouble had "created a big incentive" for Russian farmers not to sell their wheat.

Holding onto physical grain was currently a far safer hedge than selling it, they added.

Whilst almost all of the talk surrounding Russia is currently about these nearby issues, there's winter kill losses and difficulty in funding the spring planting program and growers ability to fund the purchase of inputs also still to get over in 2015.

Whilst crude oil is going for a bath (somebody posted on Twitter today that a barrel of Evian water is now more expensive than a barrel of crude), along with some other markets, there's a school of thought that grains suddenly could offer the chance of better returns in 2015 than many other sectors. Prices are after all still pretty close to recent historic lows.

Some spec money might see this as a chance to get in, if not exactly on the bottom rung of the ladder then maybe still a fair way from the top.

In other news, the Ukraine Ministry of Economic Development said that the country had exported 15.19 MMT of grains in the Jul/Nov period. That total includes 7.32 MMT of wheat, 3.51 MMT of barley and 4.14 MMT of corn.

The USDA has them down to export 10.3 MMT of wheat this season, so that's 71% of that total gone already.

The same body forecasts Dec/Jul grain exports at an ambitious looking 21.5 MMT, which would take full season exports to a record in excess of 36.5 MMT.

The Ukraine Ag Ministry meanwhile estimate that winter grain plantings are up 8.8% to 8 million ha, despite the loss of Crimea and war in the east.

Russia's winter plantings are also well ahead of year ago levels, and the official Ag Ministry forecast there is still for record exports this season.

So, everything is apparently officially fine in both countries. Does anyone else get the whiff of a decomposing rodent here?

Chicago Grains Closing Comments

16/12/14 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed lower on concerns about the Chinese economy and with a weaker Brazilian real heading bearish influences. The latter triggered a bout of Brazilian producer that selling that Benson Quinn said was the heaviest seen since last March. AgRural said Brazil bean planting is 96% complete versus 98% on average. Another bad day at the office for crude oil added to the bearish tone. Fund money was said to have ditched around a net 6,000 soybean contracts on the day. It is estimated that Chinese soybean imports will peak at around 7.5 MMT this month, before falling to around 7 MMT in January and 5 MMT in February (Chinese New Year). This is a normal seasonal trend. Oil World estimated the global 2014/15 soybean crop at 312.9 MMT versus a previous estimate of 309.1 MMT and compared to the 2013/14 production of 285.0 MMT. Their new figure is almost identical to the USDA's 312.8 MMT. Jan 15 Soybeans closed at $10.23 1/2, down 16 cents; Mar 15 Soybeans closed at $10.31 1/4, down 14 3/4 cents; Jan 15 Soybean Meal closed at $356.60, down $8.80; Jan 15 Soybean Oil closed at 31.77, down 50 points.

Corn: The corn market closed around 2 cents lower. There continues to be talk of China finally approving MIR 162 corn and DDGS with traces of it for import, but no official confirmation of this has yet been forthcoming. The spectre of crude oil now falling to levels not seen since the dark times of the 2009 aftermath to the sub-prime led financial crisis are hard to ignore, although corn is doing its best to do just that. Ethanol values have held up very well, up until now, but are finally starting to show signs of cracking. Or should that be fracking? South Korea's MFG is shopping for 280,000 MT of optional origin corn for April shipment. South America might be the most likely winner of that business. "While US corn offers have gotten more competitive, I wouldn’t give the US the competitive edge into many potential destinations," said Benson Quinn's Brian Henry. Coceral increased their estimate for the EU-28 corn crop from the previous 72.8 MMT to a new record 73.5 MMT, which is more than 10 MMT up on a year ago. They peg the French crop at a record 16.91 MMT, although some other estimates are in the 17-18 MMT region. Mar 15 Corn closed at $4.06, down 2 1/2 cents; May 15 Corn closed at $4.14 1/2, down 2 cents.

Wheat: The wheat market closed higher across all three exchanges. Russia raised their interest rates from 10.5% to a hefty 17% overnight in an effort to stabilise the rouble which had earlier fallen to new all time lows against the dollar and euro. Gossip abounds concerning some form of covert export restrictions being introduced. There's talk that the Russian Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance Service is now saying it will only release phytosanitary certificates to buyers from Turkey, Egypt, Armenia and India. Other reports suggest that some loaded vessels are sat portside waiting for clearance, which currently isn't forthcoming. Russia has announced a hike in the intervention price it will pay to farmers, as was expected. Following the recent demise of the rouble however the prices on the table are still below what is available on the cash market. The most likely beneficiary of Russia standing away from the export market is likely to be Europe before the US however. Coceral raised their forecast for the EU-28 soft wheat crop to 148.5 MMT, which is 12 MMT above last year's level. They see France at 37.45 MMT versus 36.87 MMT a year ago, with Germany at 27.81 MMT versus 24.87 MMT and the UK at 16.52 MMT versus 11.92 MMT. Mar 15 CBOT Wheat closed at $6.23 1/4, up 4 1/4 cents; Mar 15 KCBT Wheat closed at $6.54 3/4, up 7 3/4 cents; Mar 15 MGEX Wheat closed at $6.34 1/4, up 1 3/4 cents.

EU Wheat Hits 7-Month High On Russian Jitters

16/12/14 -- EU grains were mixed, with wheat trading higher on further Russian jitters. Paris wheat closed at its highest levels since May

The day ended with Jan 15 London wheat up GBP1.55/tonne to GBP134.00/tonne, Jan 15 Paris wheat was EUR5.00/tonne higher at EUR195.00/tonne, Jan 15 Paris corn was EUR0.25/tonne easier at EUR158.50/tonne, whilst Feb 15 Paris rapeseed ended EUR4.00/tonne lower at EUR344.00/tonne.

The Russian rouble had a wild day, even by its recent standards, hitting new all time lows against both the US dollar and euro. At one stage it had lost 50% of its value against the dollar in just six weeks.

After last week's 1% interest rate rise caused little more than a momentary ripple in the international currency markets, the Russian Central Bank decided that a bit of "shock and awe" was in order. They announced an interest rate hike from 10.5% to 17%, meaning that rates in Russia have almost doubled in a week!

Brent crude meanwhile slipped below $60/barrel for the first time since July 2009, further piling the pressure on the rouble.

Whilst Russian wheat prices are good in rouble terms, in dollar terms they're a disaster. Rapidly rising inflation meanwhile could only be serving to encourage farmers that still have grain to sell to hold onto their remaining stocks as a hedge against the demise of the domestic currency.

Russian exporters meanwhile are likely to withdraw from the market until the rouble stabilises.

There are also now reports that the Russian Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance Service (VPSS) has said that it will only issue export certificates for grain bound for Turkish, Egyptian, Armenian and Indian buyers.

That sure sounds like an export restriction to me, if true.

Bear in mind that Russia's 2015 budget is said to have been drawn up on the basis of crude oil being $100/barrel and the dollar being worth 35 roubles, when in fact it almost hit 80 today. There's now much discussion of the possibility of a Russian debt default.

All of this is also clearly likely to affect Russian growers' ability to fund their spring planting program and the purchase of inputs in 2015.

In other news, Coceral raised their estimate for the EU-28 soft wheat crop in 2014 from 147.9 MMT to 148.5 MMT. That's an 8.8% increase on last year. They also increased their corn production estimate from 72.8 MMT to 73.5 MMT, a 16.3% rise on the previous year.

For barley production they now go 60.16 MMT versus 59.38 MMT a year ago, and for OSR they are at 24.12 MMT versus 20.8 MMT in 2013.

For the UK specifically, they forecast this year's wheat crop at 16.52 MMT (11.92 MMT last year), with barley output unchanged at 7.0 MMT and OSR production at 2.51 MMT (versus 2.22 MMT a year ago).

Chicago Mixed, Beans Lower, Corn And Wheat Higher

15/12/14 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed around 7 to 8 cents lower. Weekly export inspections were 1.82 MMT, down from 2.2 MMT a week ago, but still a decent volume. Year-to-date exports are now 25.567 MMT versus 20.879 MMT this time last year. The November NOPA crush came in at 161.2 million bushels. This was below trade expectations, but still a record for the month. South American weather looks friendly. "The forecast calls for above average rainfall in the majority of Brazil soybeans, favouring the interior of the country," said Martell Crop Projections. The FSA reported the 2014 US soybean "prevent planted" area at 841,000 acres versus the November figure of 839,000 acres and 1.702 million acres a year ago. They put the 2014 planted area at 81.626 million acres versus the November figure of 81.392 million and 75.277 million in 2013. Jan 15 Soybeans closed at $10.39 1/2, down 7 3/4 cents; Mar 15 Soybeans closed at $10.46, down 7 3/4 cents; Jan 15 Soybean Meal closed at $365.40, down $1.60; Jan 15 Soybean Oil closed at 32.27, down 9 points.

Corn: The corn market closed with small gains, aided by spillover support from wheat. Weekly export inspections were fairly modest at 546,515 MT. Talk that China will finally approve MIR 162 corn and its by-products was friendly. So too is continued chatter that Ukraine is struggling to supply China with all their existing purchases on time, and of the quality they demand. The FSA reported the number of US 2014 "prevent plant" area at 1.606 million acres versus the November figure of 1.594 million and 3.614 million in 2013. They put the US 2014 corn planted area at 86.285 million acres versus the November figure of 85.842 million and 92.359 million a year ago. Russia said that their 2014 corn harvest was effectively concluded at 11.6 MMT, with yields averaging 4.56 MT/ha versus 5.28 MT/ha a year ago. APK Inform estimated Ukraine's 2014/15 corn exports at 18 MMT, down 8.8% from a year ago. Corn continues to do its best to ignore plunging global crude oil prices. Mar 15 Corn closed at $4.08 1/2, up 1 cent; May 15 Corn closed at $4.16 1/2, up 3/4 cent.

Wheat: The wheat market closed with decent gains. Belief is growing that although Russia probably will not issue an all out export embargo, they will introduce export restrictions in one form or another, whether covertly or otherwise. The Russian rouble fell to yet another fresh all time low against the US dollar today. The FSA reported the US 2014 "prevent plant" wheat area at 1.38 million acres versus the November figure of 1.379 million and 2.013 million a year ago. Plantings were put at 53.521 million acres versus the November figure of 53.451 million and compared to 53.775 million a year ago. APK Inform estimated Ukraine's 2014/15 wheat exports at 10.8 MMT, a 16.4% increase on a year ago. Weekly US export inspections of 385,974 MT were up 42.8% from the previous week, but still no better than routine. EU winter wheat conditions have taken a turn for the worse with increasing dryness in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic, but also extreme wetness in the Mediterranean countries Italy Romania and Hungary, say Martell Crop Projections. Mar 15 CBOT Wheat closed at $6.19, up 12 1/2 cents; Mar 15 KCBT Wheat closed at $6.47, up 12 3/4 cents; Mar 15 MGEX Wheat closed at $6.32 1/2, up 11 3/4 cents.

EU Grains Start Week On A Firm Note

15/12/14 -- EU grains finished the day higher, with Jan 15 London wheat up GBP2.25/tonne to GBP132.25/tonne; Jan 15 Paris wheat was EUR1.25/tonne firmer at EUR190.00/tonne; Jan 15 Paris corn rose EUR1.50/tonne to EUR158.75/tonne; Feb 15 Paris rapeseed jumped EUR5.25/tonne to EUR348.00/tonne.

In their final review of the 2013/14 season, the EU Commission's MARS unit said that "generally favourable conditions across the EU-28 have led to forecasted cereal yields that are above the five-year average, except for durum wheat and spring barley. All final cereal crop yields – except those for spring barley – were higher than forecast at the start of the season."

"The average EU-28 soft wheat yield estimate for the 2013-14 season is well above the five-year average and just above last year’s figure. Yield estimates are particularly high for most countries in the central, eastern and northern parts of the EU, such as Germany, the UK, Romania, Denmark and Poland. The yield estimate for France is closer to the five-year average and similar to last year’s result. The estimates for Spain, Slovakia, and Croatia are well below the five-year average", they said.

For barley "EU-28 yields are slightly above the average of the past five years, but below the excellent results of 2013. The season was positive in most of Europe, with the exception of Spain, which was affected by dry weather conditions in spring," they continued.

For corn "yields are at least 25 % above the five-year average in Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria.. A slightly positive campaign is expected in Spain, Poland, the Netherlands, Austria and Lithuania," they added.

"Overall beneficial conditions for rapeseed crops during this campaign resulted in an excellent season in Germany and Poland (forecast yields are among the highest in our database) and a very good season in the UK and France (forecast yields are above the five-year average)," they concluded.

Taking a look at next year's EU crop production potential, Copa Cogeca forecast EU-28 soft wheat plantings to fall 1.6% to 23.92 million ha, with average yields estimated 4.6% lower at 5.84 MT/ha. That pegs production at 139.75 MMT, a 6.2% fall compared to this year.

EU barley production in 2015 is seen 4.6% lower at 55.8 MMT, also on a combination of reduced plantings and a drop in yields. Likewise with corn output, which is estimated 5.7% lower at 68.8 MMT.

The EU-28 rapeseed crop is also estimated to see a reduced planted area and yields next year, with output pegged 6.4% lower at just over 22 MMT.

On a UK specific level, they forecast the 2015 wheat crop falling almost 14% at 14.3 MMT compared to 16.6 MMT this year. They see barley output little changed at 6.9 MMT versus 7.0 MMT this year. They forecast that UK growers to reduce their OSR area by 4% to 647k ha, but with average yields rising to 4.0 MT/ha, they predict production to increase by almost the same percentage to almost 2.6 MMT. I can see a many people shaking their heads at the notion that the UK will produce more rapeseed next year than this, but there we have it.

In the ongoing saga concerning Russia, their Ag Minister was today quoted as saying that whilst there will be no outright embargo, they are "going to change the situation with Russian grain exports through dummy offshore companies" without giving specific details of what action they intend to take.

Meanwhile the Russian Ministry said the the 2014 grain harvest was essentially now over at 110.8 MMT in bunker weight. Wheat accounts for 62.3 MMT of that, barley 21.2 MMT and corn a further 11.6 MMT.

Customs data shows that Russia exported a record 637.7 MMT of barley in October, up 26% versus September and 60% above a year previously. That takes exports for the first four months of the season to more than 1.9 MMT, which is 20% up year-on-year and also a record. Saudi Arabia took more than half that total.

APK Inform estimate Russia's 2014/15 barley exports at 4 MMT, up 48% on last year.

The same firm also forecast Ukraine's 2014/15 grain exports at a record 32.6 MMT, up 2% compared to last season. They see wheat exports at 10.8 MMT (+16.4%) and those for barley at 3.4 MMT (+37.6%). Corn shipments will however fall to 18 MMT, which is 8.8% lower than last season's record volume.

The Ukraine Ag Ministry said that winter grain emergence was now at 95%, rating 82% of what has emerged as being in good to satisfactory condition and 18% weak/thinned.

Most of the major winter cropping areas of Russia and Ukraine are currently experiencing warmer than normal temperatures, with these conditions expected to last for the next 10-14 days. That may not necessarily be such a good thing, as what snow cover there is is now melting, and could soon have totally disappeared in the most productive areas of the Ukrainian and Russian plains, say Agritel.