Chicago Pre-Easter Closing Comments

02/04/15 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed higher both on the day and for the week. The firmer tone came despite news from the USDA that demand seems to have finally switched to South America once and for all. Weekly export sales of only 27,400 MT for 2014/15 were down 95 percent from the previous week and 92 percent below the prior 4-week average. There were however decent new crop sales of 568,300 MT, mainly for unknown destinations (359,500 MT), China (118,000 MT) and Mexico (90,000 MT). The modest old crop sales included decreases for unknown destinations (51,000 MT), China (40,500 MT) and Japan (39,200 MT). Actual exports of 665,100 MT were down 13 percent from the previous week and 3 percent from the prior 4-week average, but still not too bad. Old crop sales commitments are now 99.6% of the USDA forecast for the season, so a significant slowdown at this point is needed and not unexpected. Meal sales were strong at 214,100 MT for 2014/15 and 183,500 MT for 2015/16. MDA CropCast estimated the US 2015 soybean crop at 103.93 MMT, down 0.31 MMT from last week and 3.8% down on last year as yields decline 4.5%. The FAO cut their forecast for the world 2014/15 soybean crop from 314 MMT to 312 MMT, although they still raised ending stocks 4 MMT to 46 MMT. The USDA's FAS in Brazil said that the country would plant 300k ha less soybeans for the 2015/16 harvest (31.1 million ha) than a year ago. This would be the first reduction in area in 9 years. They peg production next season at 94 MMT, with exports at 48 MMT. Informa were said to have estimated Brazilian production at 93.0 MMT this year, with Argentina at 57.5 MMT. May 15 Soybeans closed at $9.86, down 3 3/4 cents; Jul 15 Soybeans closed at $9.91 1/4, down 3 1/4 cents; May 15 Soybean Meal closed at $327.30, down $4.60; May 15 Soybean Oil closed at 31.04, up 35 points. For the week, front month beans added 18 3/4 cents, meal gained $5.90 and oil added 44 points. The new crop soybean:corn price ratio closed the week at 2.37:1 versus less than 2.3:1 last Friday, and the 1 1/2-year low of 2.24:1 set Monday night, prior to the release of Tuesday's USDA planting intentions report. US corn planting in southern states remains slow, and dryness and cool temperatures in the Midwest is also threatening to delay corn planting there, which could ultimately mean more soybeans getting sown than the USDA predicted on Tuesday.

Corn: The corn market closed around 4 cents higher on the day, but with small losses for the week. Weekly export sales of 406,600 MT for delivery in 2014/15 were down 7 percent from the previous week and 26 percent below the prior 4-week average. These were also the second lowest of the marketing year so far. There were also new crop sales of 25,100 MT. Exports of 683,400 MT were down 36 percent from the previous week and 37 percent below the prior 4-week average. Total commitments on old crop are now 82% of the USDA target for the season versus 85% a year ago and 78% typically at this time. Interestingly for sorghum there were net sales reductions of 212,700 MT. Still, US exporters have already sold 103% of the USDA’s target for the season, much of it to China. MDA CropCast estimated the US 2015 corn crop at 351.1 MMT, or 13.822 billion bushels. That's down 3.8% on last year, and down 0.7 MMT from last week. Rains in the Mississippi Delta region continue to slow fieldwork, they noted. The FAO added 3 MMT to their forecast for the global 2014/15 corn crop to 1025 MMT, that's far above the 990 MMT estimated by the USDA and IGC. They also increased world ending stocks by 9 MMT to 219 MMT. Again this is well above the USDA's 185 MMT and the IGC's 191 MMT forecasts. EU corn imports so far this season now stand at 7.1 MMT, down almost a third on those of a year ago at this time. South Korea's KOCOPIA tendered for 55,000 MT of optional origin corn for August shipment. Informa added 2.4 MMT to their Brazilian 2014/15 corn production forecast, raising their estimate to 74.7 MMT, which now puts them broadly in line with the USDA. The Memphis-based analyst said that said yields in full season corn in Rio Grande do Sul are higher than previously estimated. MDA CropCast were unchanged on Brazil (76.91 MMT) and Argentina (23.55 MMT). Corn planting in the Delta remains retarded by persistent wetness. The USDA are due to resume their regular weekly planting progress reports on Monday. May 15 Corn closed at $3.86 1/2, up 4 3/4 cents; Jul 15 Corn closed at $3.94 1/2, up 4 1/2 cents. For the week May corn lost 4 1/2 cents.

Wheat: The wheat market closed anywhere from 5 to more than 10 cents higher on the day, and with decent gains for the week. The wheat market has now closed higher for 4 out of the last 5 sessions, largely on the back of US winter wheat concerns due to dryness and winterkill issues. The latter is said to be a particular problem in Nebraska. "In 50 years of being in west-central and southwest Nebraska, this is the worst I've ever seen," a University of Nebraska Extension Cropping Systems Specialist was quoted as saying by DTN. Many growers are now waiting for a visit from their crop insurance agent to get permission to rip up the crop, he added. Arlan Suderman of Farm Futures Magazine said that he'd seen pictures of even worse damage than in Nebraska from northwestern Kansas. MDA CropCast cut their forecast for the US 2015 winter wheat crop by 41 million bushels to 1.5 billion on the back of continued dryness in the Southern Plains. That lopped 1.1 MMT off their forecast for the 2015 US all wheat crop, reducing that to 58.5 MMT from a week ago, although that's still up 4.5% on a year ago. Informa projected US 2015 winter wheat production will total 1.497 billion bushels, up 120 million from a year ago. Demand for US wheat isn't great though, unless you are a fund manager with a short position to cover. Weekly export sales this week only came in at a poor 162,100 MT for delivery in 2014/15. Even if this was up 58 percent from the previous week's disaster, it was still down 54 percent from the prior 4-week average. There were also relatively modest sales of 131,000 MT for 2015/16. Exports came in at a less than spectacular 338,200 MT, and were down 32 percent from the previous week and 29 percent below the prior 4-week average. EU wheat sales on the other hand are booming. Brussels issued a third highest ever volume of soft wheat export licences this week, which took the March total to a record in excess of 4 MMT. The FAO added 1 MMT to their forecast for the world 2014/15 wheat crop, pegging that at 728 MMT, and raised ending stocks by 6 MMT to 205 MMT - mostly due to increases for China and Australia. May 15 CBOT Wheat closed at $5.36 1/4, up 7 3/4 cents; May 15 KCBT Wheat closed at $5.82 3/4, up 10 3/4 cents; May 15 MGEX Wheat closed at $5.95 1/2, up 5 cents. For the week, Chicago wheat gained 28 1/2 cents, Kansas added 29 3/4 cents and Minneapolis advanced 20 1/2 cents.

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).

Chicago Grains Post Decent Gains To Start The New Month/Quarter

01/04/15 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed with decent gains, as did the rest of the grains complex. Whether this was simply a case of "new month, new money" remains to be seen. It was also of course a new quarter. Some are already pointing to the fact that there is a seasonal trend for soybean prices to rise in the month of April, having done so in each of the last three years. They added 4.4% in April 2014, 4.5% in April 2013 and 7.1% in April 2012. Was it more of a continued reaction to the fact that the USDA didn't predict such a large switch into beans and away from corn as the market was expecting? The market got a near 1 million extra soybean acres versus 2014, not the 2-3 million it was anticipating, but that's not to say that they won't ultimately end up with the acreage thought. The USDA have underestimated US soybean plantings by between 2-3 million in two of the last three Mar 31 reports. Yet fund money is short beans, and doesn't appear comfortable being so. "Funds were short 44,000 contracts a week ago Tuesday and with additional daily selling into yesterday’s report, it was thought the spec funds were short close to 48,000 to 50,000 contracts," estimate Benson Quinn. The equivalent of 50,000 bushels is 6.8 MMT. Tonight's new crop spread between Nov 15 beans and Dec 15 corn has a price ratio of 2.39:1 versus a 1 1/2-year low of 2.24:1 on the evening prior to the USDA planting intentions report, when the market was seemingly confident it had got it's sums right and was simply awaiting confirmation from Washington. Rabobank don't seem to think that new crop bean prices have a future where they currently lie, estimating the average Q4 2015 price to be below $9/bushel. Dr Cordonnier said that in the leading Brazilian soybean state of Mato Grosso, harvesting is winding down. The west of the state is about 98% done, and the slowest region - the north east - is 77% complete, he said. He says that growers in the state are already 60% sold on this crop, and have even committed to 2% of their 2015/16 production, encouraged by the weak Brazilian real. He estimated this year's crop at 93.0 MMT, unchanged from his previous estimate. He now sees the crop in Argentina at 57 MMT, up 1 MMT from previously. May 15 Soybeans closed at $9.89 3/4, up 16 1/2 cents; Jul 15 Soybeans closed at $9.94 1/2, up 16 3/4 cents; May 15 Soybean Meal closed at $331.90, up $5.10; May 15 Soybean Oil closed at 30.69, up 30 points.

Corn: The corn market ended around 5-6 cents higher. If the market does believe the USDA planting numbers, then presumably it also thinks that the corn acreage is probably correct. It's worth noting then that the USDA have over-estimated the size of US spring corn plantings in 4 of the last 5 years in the Mar 31 planting intentions report. Only in 2012 were they on the low side. In each of the past two seasons they've been 1-2 million acres on the high side. The fact that very early plantings in the Delta region are already way behind normal/last year could lend some weight to the argument that this could indeed be the case again this year. The drifting of the soybean:corn price ratio back towards the 2.4:1 level also is starting to favour later planted, and less input costly beans. It also seems entirely possible that the new Chinese appetite for sorghum could steal a few more acres away from corn that currently predicted by the USDA. Dr Cordonnier now has the Brazilian corn crop estimated at 75.0 MMT, versus a previous estimate of 74.0 MMT. He goes unchanged on Argentina at 23 MMT. The Buenos Aires Grain Exchange raised their forecast for Argentina, also to 23 MMT. They said that harvesting of this year's crop is now 11.4% complete, up 3.9 percentage points in a week. South Korea's KFA bought 63,000 MT of optional origin corn for Nov shipment. South Korea's MFG bought 134,000 MT of optional origin corn for October shipment. Rabobank forecast US corn prices in the final quarter of 2015 to average $3.90/bushel, which is around 4% below tonight's close of the Dec 15 future. The US Department of Energy reported that ethanol stocks fell to 20.5 million barrels in the week ending March 27, down from 21.3 million the previous week. This was the 4th consecutive week of lower stocks, and the 5th in the last 6 weeks. US ethanol production was down slightly at 952,000 barrels/day versus 953,00 bpd the previous week. Also of note "was a rally of around 6% in crude spurred by the EIA reporting its first cut in weekly production since January, output fell by 36,000 barrels," observed Benson Quinn. With a holiday weekend looming, a market correction could be on the cards for tomorrow. May 15 Corn closed at $3.81 3/4, up 5 1/2 cents; Jul 15 Corn closed at $3.90, up 5 3/4 cents.

Wheat: The wheat market continued with it's seesaw ride, posting strong gains that more of less reversed yesterday's losses, which had more or less balanced out Monday's near 20 cent gains! US weather concerns continue to be much talked about. "Much of Kansas is now harmfully dry. Midday forecasts continue to show the same pattern of moisture passing over dry areas, though central Oklahoma saw moisture yesterday and northern areas could see some rain tonight," said Benson Quinn. Wheat in western Nebraska is showing signs of winterkill, according to the Nebraska Wheat Board. The low level of US wheat exports remains a bearish factor, but whilst fund money is heavily short Chicago wheat they continue to buy the dips, adding support. Russia's intervention purchases are finally picking up, as domestic prices decline following the introduction of the wheat export duty on Feb 1. The Russian Association of exporters are warning that current prices and the lack of easily available credit, combined with high seed prices could lead to "mass bankruptcies" in the agri-sector, and sharply lower Russian cereal production this year. One thing grabbing my interest today, although this doesn't seem to have been given much attention elsewhere, was news that India bought 70,000-80,000 MT of Australian wheat for April-May shipment. The delivery period being right in the middle of the Indian harvest. You may recall that there were some reports around a week or two back that unseasonably heavy March rains and hail had caused widespread damage to the Indian wheat crop. The Kazakhstan Ag Ministry estimated the country’s 2015 grain crop at 17.2 MMT, unchanged from last year. They see exports at 7.0 MMT in the current marketing year. Reports out of Ukraine suggest that winter crops in the west of the country are looking promising. It looks like, with Easter coming up, Brussels have brought forwards by a day the release of the latest round of EU soft wheat export licences. Bloomberg are reporting these at 1.07 MMT this past week, up 48% from a week ago. That would take the season to date total to 25.5 MMT, and mean that they've granted over 4 MMT worth of export licences in March alone. Impressive stuff, aided of course by the weak euro. May 15 CBOT Wheat closed at $5.28 1/2, up 16 3/4 cents; May 15 KCBT Wheat closed at $5.72, up 12 3/4 cents; May 15 MGEX Wheat closed at $5.90 1/2, up 14 1/2 cents.

EU Grains Rise AOn Ideas Exports Remain Strong

01/04/15 -- EU grains closed mostly higher with May 15 London wheat up GBP1.50/tonne at GBP122.00/tonne, May 15 Paris wheat up EUR3.25/tonne to EUR190.75/tonne, Jun 15 Paris corn up EUR0.50/tonne at EUR164.25/tonne and May 15 Paris rapeseed up EUR1.25/tonne at EUR368.25/tonne.

Fresh news was relatively light following yesterday's USDA releases. These early acreage numbers are of course far from yet being written in tablets of stone, and much can change between now and the finish of the planting season.

Indeed, a flick back through the record books shows that the January "final" acreage estimate has differed from the Mar 31 forecast by as much as almost 2 million acres on the high side to more than 3 million on the low side in the case of corn in the previous 10 seasons.

The final area on soybeans has also proved to be 2-3 million acres wrong three times in the last 10 years. As you might expect the USDA has the best track record on wheat acreage, as most of that crop has already been in the ground for some considerable time when the Mar 31 estimates are released, even so the final planted area has been 2-3 million over-estimated in 2 of the previous 4 seasons.

So ultimately, we are not really much wiser today than we were yesterday morning. The US wheat market appears torn between the fact that fund money is short, and appears more inclined to buy on the dips rather than look to actively extend that position too much. There are also well reported question marks over the state of US winter wheat on the Plains. On the flip side we have the perennially strong US dollar continuing to harm US wheat export prospects.

Closer to home, EU wheat exports remain very robust, and look currently set to beat even last season's record pace - we are currently ahead of it by 7.5% - with another set of export licence figures due tomorrow.  Export licenses have been granted for more than 3 MMT of soft wheat in the past 3 weeks.

EU barley exports are also going well, with ODA saying that France could leapfrog Australia into top spot in the world export table this season. They'd exported more than 3 MMT of the grain in the first half of 2014/15, and are set to ship more than 2 MMT to China alone this season, which is more than a third of all their total import requirements which are placed at a record 6 MMT in 2014/15 as they buy large volumes of coarse grains to compensate for their lack of corn purchases from the US over GMO issues.

China will occupy second top slot in the world barley import league in 2014/15, only 0.5 MMT behind Saudi Arabia, according to the latest USDA estimates.

Russia's intervention purchases are picking up due to the excessive export duty on wheat. This means that local prices are declining, enabling the government to pick up more wheat for domestic stocks than they had been doing previously.

They bought just under 26,500 MT of wheat for intervention today, taking the total purchased so far this season to just under 517 TMT.

The Russian National Association of Exports though say that current low prices of grain, plus the high cost of seed and other inputs could lead to "mass bankruptcies" among cash-strapped local growers and a sharp decline in cereal production this year.

Kazakhstan forecast their 2015/16 grain crop at 17.2 MMT in clean weight, unchanged from last year.

UK feed wheat prices continue to fluctuate more in line with US and French corn levels than anything else, say the HGCA. "Further volatility in US corn futures is likely to impact UK wheat futures in a similar way before greater clarity of the size of the US corn crop is obtained come harvest 2015," they add.

Currency changes will also of course be a factor, and a weak sterling in the run-up to the General Election seems like a possibility, and one that might support London wheat a little, as it seemed to today.

USDA Report Sends Chicago Corn Into A Tailspin, And Wheat Follows

31/03/15 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed a little bit higher in a choppy session that saw front month May 15 post a 30 cent trading range before eventually settling 5 1/2 cents higher. "It was a wild session today with USDA report creating a wide ranging and very quick knee-jerk price reaction in the beans," said Benson Quinn. The USDA pegged the 2015 prospective soybean planted area at 84.635 million That's up from 83.7 million acres a year ago and the February Forum provisional forecast of 83.5 million, although not by as much as the trade was expecting. The average pre-report guess was 85.919 million, from within a range of estimates that went as high as 88 million. As was noted last week, given the fact that USDA were only lining up at 83.5 million at their February Outlook Forum AND that they came out with a forecast that was in fact more than 2 million on the low side of what eventually got planted in last year's March 31 report, then it seemed entirely possible to me that the USDA would not not go "all in" with their soybean acreage estimate quite this early in the game. Quarterly stocks were also a bit friendly, coming in at 1.334 million bushels, slightly below the average trade estimate at 1.348 million. That's still well up on 994 million a year ago however. Assuming 46.0 bu/acre a US trendline yield, using demand from the USDA outlook forum estimates the then 2015/16 ending stocks forecast looks closer to 420 million bushels than some private analysts’ estimates that are over 550 million, noted Benson Quinn. There is no shortage of soybeans in the world in 2014/15 however now that we have the South American harvest upon us. Oil World pegged the global crop up 11% this season at 312.8 MMT, and up from from 312.2 MMT a month ago. May 15 Soybeans closed at $9.73 1/4, up 5 1/2 cents; Jul 15 Soybeans closed at $9.77 3/4, up 5 cents; May 15 Soybean Meal closed at $326.80, up $3.60; May 15 Soybean Oil closed at 30.39, down 10 points.

Corn: The corn market posted significant losses, which took the new crop soybean:corn price ratio up from yesterday’s fresh 1 1/2-year low of 2.24:1 to close at 2.38:1 tonight. A Reuters survey last week estimated 2015 US corn plantings at 88.73 million acres. A Bloomberg survey said 88.83 million. The USDA today said 89.2 million. That was in fact higher than the USDA outlook forum estimate of 89.0 million in February, so the trade didn't get it's expected near 2 million acre switch away from last year's 90.6 million acres that they were expecting. Quarterly stocks were pegged at 7.745 billion bushels, up from 7.008 billion last year, and above the average trade estimate of 7.609 billion. The USDA also forecast 2015 US sorghum plantings up more than 11% at 7.9 million acres, led by strong Chinese demand, and the fact that it is a relatively inexpensive crop to grow. In other news, last night the USDA reported Texas corn planting is 20% complete versus 14% a week ago, 27% a year ago and well behind the 43% average for this time of year. Louisiana corn planting is even further behind at 16% complete versus 1% a week ago, 67% a year ago and 81% average on average for this time. Arkansas is 2% planted versus 28% on average and Mississippi was 7% planted versus 39% on average. "Forecasts are leaning drier, but planting progress needs to pick up significantly. Needless to say, the story of today was centered on the USDA report which didn’t offer much price support," noted Benson Quinn. Ukraine said that they'd exported 12.74 MMT of corn so far this season, Russia said that they'd shipped out a more modest 1.91 MMT. Taiwan bought for 65 TMT of what was said to be US origin corn for May/Jun shipment. Argentine transport workers staged a one day strike, and port workers at the Argentine grain export hub of Rosario joined in for good measure. The US Energy Dept are due to release their latest weekly ethanol production numbers tomorrow. May 15 Corn closed at $3.76 1/4, down 18 1/4 cents; Jul 15 Corn closed at $3.84 1/4, down 18 1/4 cents.

Wheat: The wheat market closed sharply lower, more or less reversing last night's strong gains, in classic "turnaround Tuesday" style. The USDA numbers were relatively neutral for wheat, pegging the 2015 all wheat area at 55.4 million acres versus an average guess of 55.8 million and last year’s 56.8 million. The stocks number of 1.124 million bushels was a little below the average trade estimate of 1.140 million. Plunging corn values however dragged the wheat market down with it. Colorado winter wheat conditions improved to 58% good to excellent from 55% a week ago. Kansas was down to 39% good to excellent from 41% a week ago. Oklahoma was unchanged at 44% good to excellent. Nebraska was down sharply to 34% good to excellent from 62% a month ago. In global news, Bloomberg reported that French barley exports to China may rise more than 20-fold to 2.19 MMT this season, according to forecasts from Offre et Demande Agricole. UkrAgroConsult said that Russian barley exports this season could reach 5 MMT up from a previous estimate of 4.2 MMT. Russian barley exports Feb 1 to Mar 25 were up 10-fold from the same period a year ago at 932 TMT, aided by the new export duty on wheat. The head of the Russian Grain Union is apparently calling on the government there to abolish the duty on wheat exports before it is set to automatically expire on Jun 30. The HGCA report that Russian traders are holding off new crop wheat sales whilst the duty remains in place. "Dry weather conditions have dominated the Volga and Southern districts in recent weeks, although wheat is holding its own in the North Caucasus (Stavropol) district with near normal winter-spring rainfall," said Martell Crop Projections. Elswhere, "unseasonably warm weather in western Canada may promote early wheat planting this season, especially in Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan," they add. May 15 CBOT Wheat closed at $5.11 3/4, down 18 1/2 cents; May 15 KCBT Wheat closed at $5.59 1/4, down 17 cents; May 15 MGEX Wheat closed at $5.76, down 14 3/4 cents.

EU Gains Markets - Tuesday Night Close

31/03/15 -- EU wheat traded mostly lower in the run-up to today's USDA planting intentions and stocks reports due for release at 17.00 BST. Chicago wheat staged an infamous "turnaround Tuesday" session, essentially erasing almost all the gains achieved on Monday, setting the tone for EU wheat.

At the finish, May 15 London wheat was down GBP2.25/tonne at GBP120.50/tonne; May 15 Paris wheat was EUR3.75/tonne lower at EUR187.50/tonne; Jun 15 Paris corn was unchanged at EUR163.75/tonne; May 15 Paris rapeseed was up EUR3.25/tonne at EUR367.00/tonne.

Oil World said that global oilseeds production will rise 5.5% this season to a record 523.3 MMT, led by an 11% increase in soybean output to a new all time high 312.8 MMT. Rapeseed production will fall slightly, down 1.7% to 68.4 MMT, they added.

Ukraine said that they'd exported 26.78 MMT of grains so far this season, including 9.7 MMT of wheat, just over 4 MMT of barley and 12.74 MMT of corn.

Early spring grain plantings in Ukraine are said to be 43% complete on more than 1 million ha, with spring barley accounting for the vast majority of that (780k ha) - winter wheat plantings are only 80k ha.

Winter grains in Ukraine have been fertilised on 83% of the planted area, along with 80% of the winter OSR area, say the Ag Ministry.

Russia's wheat exports have dropped off markedly since the new export duty came into force on Feb 1. Exports Feb 1 to Mar 25 were only 882 TMT in the case of wheat, down 240% versus 1.8 MMT in the same period a year ago.

Russia now appears to be concentrating on barley exports, as these are up massively at 932 TMT Feb 1 to Mar 25 as opposed to only 91 TMT a year ago.

Russia's season to date export totals are 19.35 MMT in the case of wheat (versus 15 MMT a year ago), with barley coming in at 4.27 MMT (2.08 MMT) and corn at 1.91 MMT (3.02 MMT).

The president of the Russian Grain Union has apparently said that it is “necessary” to cancel the wheat export duty before it expires on June 30, according to a story on Bloomberg.

Jordan are tendering for 100 TMT each of hard milling wheat and feed barley for Oct/Nov shipment.

The Monday Morning Vibe

30/03/15 -- The overnight grains trade mostly higher this morning, with Globex beans currently up 2-3 cents, and with wheat 2-4 cents firmer and corn fractions either side.

Wheat is off the overnight highs which saw it 5-6 cents higher as the European markets started to wake up - you did remember to put your clock forward on Saturday night didn't you??!!

There's not a great deal to get your teeth into just yet this morning, ahead of tomorrow's BIG day when the USDA take centre stage with their Mar 31 planting intentions and quarterly stocks reports.

As mentioned over the weekend, if we are going to get a surprise there then my money would be on a smaller switch into soybeans than the 2-3 million acres that most are currently predicting. I'm not saying that switch won't happen down the line, but I just don't see the USDA predicting it tomorrow. When will I ever learn to stop second-guessing the USDA?

Weekend rains on the US southern Plains were described as "sparse" - which is the reason given for the green that you see on your computer screen this morning where the wheat prices are. Fund money still has a hefty short in CBOT wheat don't forget, and seem to view anything around the $5/bu mark as a good enough reason to cover some of those shorts in, especially just before the USDA pontificate.

Lloyds Bank are predicting UK interest rates to rise in Q4 of 2015 I read over the weekend. The rest of the market seems to be pricing in a rate rise not until either Q1 or Q2 of 2016, suggesting that if Lloyds are correct, then the pound might be a bit undervalued at the moment.

I'm hearing that there's been some sort of technical problem on the MATIF market this morning, potentially disrupting trade.

Taiwan are tendering for 65,000 MT of optional origin corn. Jordan are in for 100,000 MT each of hard wheat and feed barley. Morocco are said to have bought 172,000 MT of wheat on the local market.

There's a one-day strike in Argentina tomorrow covering the entire transport network - everyone from truckers to train drivers. Port workers in Rosario are said to be joining in, in a show of support.

Ukraine say that early spring planting there is already 43% done on more than 1 million ha, with barley (780,000 ha) accounting for the vast majority of that. "Early spring planting" figures don't include corn or sunflower/soybeans.

The Ukraine Ministry say that 83% of winter grains have been fertilised so far, along with 80% of winter OSR.

APK Inform say that a survey that they conducted said that 30% of winter grains in the Transcarpathian region are in poor condition. What do you mean you've never heard of it, do you think I just make these things up? It's in south west Ukraine, on the border with Romania, Slovakia and Hungary, you muppet. OK, I had to Google it too, to be fair.

Convenient then that my Russian/Ukraine-based agronomy chum Mike Lee set off on his crop tour over the weekend, with conditions still "a bit snowy" in Russia by all accounts. He should have crossed the border into Ukraine by now, and will be back in Russia by the end of the week, when hopefully the forecast rain will have arrived to help him better assess crop conditions there.

The findings of this tour are for subscribers only, so don't go expecting me to spill the beans for free on here, minge bag! If you want to know what he's got to say then I'm sure that you can probably still sign up for all the info even now. You can find the details on Mike's blog here: He's a Kopite, but don't hold that against him too much!