EU Grains Rise As Very Strong Export Pace Continues

02/04/15 -- EU grains closed mixed on the day, but mostly higher for the holiday-shortened week.

At the finish, May 15 London wheat was GBP0.95/tonne firmer at GBP122.95/tonne, May 15 Paris wheat was up EUR3.00/tonne at EUR193.75/tonne, Jun 15 Paris corn rose EUR0.25/tonne to EUR162.50/tonne and May 15 Paris rapeseed fell EUR4.50/tonne to EUR363.75/tonne.

For the 4-day week, that puts London wheat up GBP1.40/tonne (+1.1%), with Paris wheat climbing EUR5.00/tonne (+2.6%), corn rose EUR2.00/tonne (+1.2%) and rapeseed was even. The old crop/new crop May 15 versus Nov 15 London wheat spread finished the week at GBP8.80/tonne versus GBP8.75/tonne at the end of the previous week.

News that Brussels granted 1.1 MMT worth of soft wheat export licences this past week, said to be the third highest weekly total on record, supported the market. The highest week on record came only 3 weeks prior to that, meaning that over 4.1 MMT worth of soft wheat export licences were issued in March alone, which would also be a record monthly volume.

Cumulative season to date soft wheat exports are now 25.5 MMT, up an impressive 2.2 MMT (or +9.4%) on last year. If we add on wheat flour and durum then combined "all wheat" exports are now just shy of 27 MMT, with 3 full months of the season left to run.

Barley export licences are also running well ahead of a year ago, at 6.85 MMT so far this season, an increase of 1.75 MMT, or more than a third.

The USDA currently forecast the EU-28 to export 1.3% less "all wheat" this season than last at 31.5 MMT - if things remain at the average seasonal pace so far that could finish up closer to 36 MMT. They also only see full season barley exports at 7.5 MMT - again at the average pace so far these could be above 9 MMT.

French exports of wheat are leading the way. They've been granted 1 MMT more soft wheat export licences than Germany at nearly 7.8 MMT worth. The leading French port of Rouen was said to have shipped nearly 272 TMT of grains this week, up 74% from a week ago, the largest weekly volume since Jan 2014, according to Bloomberg. Wheat accounted for the vast majority of this week's total at nearly 231 TMT.

Saudi Arabia issued a tender to import an impressive 715 TMT of wheat, with the results expected to be announced over the Easter weekend. Europe will be hoping for a measure of success in that too, aided by the weak euro.

The FAO's AMIS increased their forecast for the 2014/15 world wheat crop by 1 MMT from a month ago to 728 MMT.

Looking ahead to 2015/16: "in the northern hemisphere winter wheat has mostly resumed vegetative growth and conditions are generally favourable. In the EU, conditions are generally good. In the US there is still concern due to dry conditions in the Southern Plains. In the Russian Federation and Ukraine, conditions remain mostly favourable though some concern remains over dry establishment conditions in the autumn," they said.

In Ukraine, early spring plantings are now 60% completed on 1.5 million ha, although that's down on 2.2 million ha a year ago at this time.

The Ukraine Director of National Scientific Centre says that the cost of spring fieldwork in the region is up almost 60% year-on-year, including an almost 80% hike in the cost of purchasing NPK fertilisers. That could certainly have a negative impact on final yields at the end of the day.

Russian spring crops have been planted on 1.5 million ha, or 2.9% of plan, versus 1.2 million ha this time last year. Growers there face similar financial problems to their counterparts in Ukraine.

Rusagrotrans said that the Russian government might pick up a further 5-600 TMT of grains for it's intervention fund between now and the end of the 2014/15 campaign - essentially doubling the circa 517 TMT that they've managed to buy so far this season. Purchases have certainly picked up since the wheat export duty came into force, their original intention however was to buy around 3.5 MMT this season.

FranceAgriMer reported French winter wheat crop conditions up a point on a week ago at 91% good to very good, well ahead of 76% this time last year. Winter barley conditions also rose a point in the top two categories, coming in at 91% against 75% a year ago.

The proportion of the French winter wheat crop now displaying an ear of at least 1cm in length rose from 48% a week ago to 73%, although that's still 12 points behind this time last year. Winter barley at that stage is 81% versus 46% a week ago and 86% a year ago. Planting of spring barley is finished, and 76% of the crop has emerged versus 40% a week ago and 55% this time last year. Only the Poitou-Charentes area has begun planting corn, and that region is only 1% done, the same as a week ago.

At home, the HGCA said that "autumn 2014 drilling conditions were very good, with most winter cereals and oilseeds drilled within the optimum window. Spring plantings have also got off to a good start, with progress currently ahead of last year’s pace.

"The majority of winter crops are in good condition with crop development around normal. Black-grass resistance in some areas and the loss of neonicotinoids in Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle (CSFB) hotspots are reported as problems. Almost half of UK spring barley drilled by end of March, with many parts of England nearing completion," they added.

A report on Reuters said that Greece had told the Eurozone/IMF that it would run out of cash in a week's time (Apr 9). The European Commission president says that at the recent elections the winning Syriza party made "completely unrealistic promises" to voters in pledging to ease economic austerity that it simply cannot now fulfil.

The country is due to make an EUR450 million (GBP330 million) payment to the IMF on the very day of Apr 9. Interesting....the market seems to like the idea of finally switching off the Greek life support machine after all this prolonged agony. The euro rose strongly against the dollar and sterling following the news (to its best level since Feb 20 against the latter in fact).