Chicago Grains Closing Comments - Friday Night

01/05/15 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed lower on the day, but little changed for the week. Fresh news was scarce with many countries closed for the May Day holiday. The US dollar, which has been weaker for the past few days following the release of disappointing growth numbers earlier in the week, put in a bit of a recovery, which was a negative for the grains complex as a whole. The market is now fixed on the US weather and Monday's crop progress report. Monday will also bring the usual weekly export inspections numbers. The trade is thinking that the 2015 US soybean crop could be around 10-15% planted in Monday night's report, up from only 2% done a week ago. Most of this week's efforts are expected to have concentrated on getting the corn crop in. The harvest in South America is wrapping up, with Argentina now around two thirds done, and production estimates starting to hit the magical 60 MMT mark (and a new record) - the USDA were only at 57 MMT last month. Their revised numbers are out on May 12. The Brazilian grower has 61% of his 2014/15 soybeans sold, according to AgRural. That's less than the 69% committed that they were this time a year ago. Sales have slowed up after the Brazilian real has firmed. "Two months ago when it was trading at 3.2 Brazilian reals to the dollar, Brazilian farmers were very pleased with the resulting increased prices being paid for their soybeans and corn. That optimism has now turned into a worry as the Brazilian currency strengthens against the dollar. It is now trading at 2.94 to the dollar and as a result, commodity prices in Brazil have declined," said Dr Cordonnier. The Argentine grower is said to be 28% sold versus 23% this time a year ago. The Canadian canola crush was down 16% week-on-week, whilst their soybean crush was up 15%. Tonight's Commitment of Traders report shows fund money reducing the size of their short position in beans to a tad over 32k lots for the week through to Tuesday night. A Bloomberg survey of 17 traders found that 9 were currently bullish on soybean price prospects, 7 were bearish and one was neutral. May 15 Soybeans closed at $9.68 1/2, down 10 cents; Jul 15 Soybeans closed at $9.64 3/4, down 11 1/4 cents; May 15 Soybean Meal closed at $314.70, down $4.20; May 15 Soybean Oil closed at 31.44, down 7 points. For the week that puts front month beans 1 1/4 cents lower, with meal up 10 cents and oil down 23 pips.

Corn: The corn market ended around 2-3 cents lower on the day, and around 5 cents easier for the week. Many are suggesting that US corn planting could be past halfway in Monday night's crop progress report versus only 19% done a week ago. Not everybody is convinced that such large progress will have been made though. "Soil temperatures last week were too cool for corn planting on many Midwest farms, but strong warming is predicted the first week of May. Soil temperatures would rapidly increase above 50 F throughout the Midwest, the threshold temperature for corn germination. Strong showers and thunderstorms may hinder planting efforts this weekend, however. Recurring showers and thunderstorms are predicted in wide swath of Nebraska, spreading east across Iowa into northern Illinois. Scattered strong showers would be possible most everywhere in the Midwest in an unstable atmosphere. A trough of low pressure would stall in the Midwest keeping conditions unstable and ripe for showers," said Martell Crop Projections. Ukraine said that they'd exported 14.6 MMT of corn so far this season. Corn plantings for the 2015 harvest are 24% complete on 1.93 million ha, 27% down versus the 2.66 million ha that had been sown this time last year. Full season corn harvesting is said to be around 80% complete in the south of the Brazil. "The outlook for Brazil’s second corn produced in the off season is decidedly mixed. Mato Grosso prospects are favourable due to exceptionally wet conditions in April, but the Parana corn outlook is fair to poor with inadequate soil moisture. The disparity between the two top corn states is evident in a late April satellite vegetation image. The two states grow roughly 70% of Brazil’s winter corn planted after the soybean harvest is finished," Martell Crop Projections say. Harvesting in Argentina is approaching a third complete. Tonight's Commitment of Traders report shows spec money adding around 27k contracts to their overall short position in corn which stood at almost 93k lots as of Tuesday night. May 15 Corn closed at $3.59 3/4, down 2 3/4 cents; Jul 15 Corn closed at $3.63, down 3 1/4 cents. The May 15 contract was down 4 3/4 cents versus last Friday and the Jul 15 lost 6 3/4 cents. The new crop soybean:corn price ratio finished the week at 2.47:1 versus 2.45:1 a week ago, favouring increased soybean planting at the expense of corn. A Bloomberg survey of 17 traders found that 11 were currently bullish on corn price prospects, 3 were bearish and 3 were neutral.

Wheat: The wheat market closed mixed on the day, but was universally lower across the three exchanges for the week. The lack of interest in US wheat on the international stage continues to be the main concern following yesterday's dismal old crop weekly export sales. South Korea passed on a tender to import 50,000 MT of US wheat overnight, rubbing salt into the wound. The dollar staged a bit of an about turn too, which won't help either. Egypt's GASC have been largely absent from the international market of late given the dip in prices to 5-year lows. They are now busy harvesting their own 2015 crop, and are said to have bought around 700,000 MT on the domestic market since they began buying local wheat about two weeks ago. Their aim is to buy 3.7 MMT of domestic wheat this year, and as they are currently paying the equivalent of around $365/tonne then they should certainly get it. The world's largest wheat buyer is aiming to be less reliant on imports in the future. Morocco are hoping to do likewise. The recently announced hike on import duties for wheat to 75% kicked in today. They're obviously confident of a large leap in domestic production this year, with total grain output forecast 62% higher at a record 11 MMT. The annual Wheat Quality Council crop tour kicks off next week, with wheat production currently estimated at around 300 million bushels in the top producing state of Kansas, versus 246 million last year. The tour's forecast for the state is due to be released next Thursday. They will also visit Oklahoma, Nebraska and Colorado. Ukraine said that they'd exported 29.3 MMT of grains so far this season, including 10 MMT of wheat. ADM German estimated the soft wheat crop there down 7.3% this year at 25.68 MMT. They see production in the EU-28 as a whole down 6.3% at 139.14 MMT. "Producers have begun planting wheat in Saskatchewan, Canada’s largest farm province, with 2% of wheat was in the ground by April 27th. Strong warming is predicted this week in Saskatchewan and the prairies provinces at large, accelerating planting. Mike Jubinville the editor of Pro Farmer in Canada claims producers intend to plant more wheat this year, 3.9% higher than 2014," said Martell Crop Projections. A Bloomberg survey of 16 traders found that 9 were currently bullish on wheat price prospects, 2 were bearish and 5 were neutral. The Commitment of Traders report shows fund money increasing the size of their already record short in CBOT wheat for the week through to Tuesday night. May 15 CBOT Wheat closed at $4.70, up 3 cents; May 15 KCBT Wheat closed at $4.93 1/4, up 3 cents; May 15 MGEX Wheat closed at $5.20 1/4, down 3 cents. For the week that puts CBOT wheat 16 cents lower, with Kansas down 9 cents and MGEX losing 14 3/4 cents.

London Wheat Ends Mostly Higher, But Lower For The Week

01/05/15 -- It was a predictably quiet day, with France and many other European countries closed for the May Day holiday. London wheat managed mostly small gains, perhaps aided by a sharply weaker sterling.

At the finish, May 15 London wheat was unchanged at GBP111.90/tonne and new crop Nov 15 closed GBP0.70/tonne higher at GBP120.25/tonne. That puts the old crop/new crop spread at GBP8.35/tonne versus GBP10.05/tonne a week ago. For the week, May 15 London wheat lost GBP1.50/tonne and Nov 15 fell GBP3.65/tonne. For the holiday-shortened week in Paris, May 15 wheat fell EUR5.00/tonne.

The pound closed the week more than 2 cents lower against the US dollar, and fell from close to 1.40 versus the euro to nearer 1.35 as it suffers from a typical pre-election dose of the collywobbles.

FranceAgriMer released their weekly crop progress report a day earlier than usual due to the holiday. They left French winter wheat and barley ratings unchanged from a week ago at 91% and 90% good to very good respectively. Spring barley ratings were cut 2 points in the good to very good category to a still impressive 95%.

The proportion of the French winter wheat crop at the 2-node stage is now 87%, up from 62% a week ago, but still behind last year's pace of 94%. Winter barley is 14% at the heading stage versus 1% a week ago and 45% a year ago. They said that 97% of spring barley is tillering versus 72% a week ago and 92% a year ago.

French corn planting was 75% complete as of Monday, up from 57% a week ago and 5 points ahead of this time last year. They said that 31% of the crop had emerged versus 7% a week previously and 30% a year ago.

One interesting development was the announcement yesterday that Senalia, the largest silo operator in the leading French port of Rouen, was closing it's doors for the intake of wheat until further notice. The reason given was the lack of demand (for export), although there's plenty of demand to deliver wheat into the facility. they said.

The silo is the larger of the two delivery points in Rouen for wheat against the May 15 Paris future, which currently has an open interest of more than 24,000 contracts - the equivalent of over 1.2 MMT. The contract now has little more than a week to go to it's expiry on May 11, so there could be some "unusual" price action in that between now and then.

French port data shows that Rouen exported less than 150 TMT of grain in the past week, compared to over 250 TMT the week before. Wheat exports were down 68% at less than 70,000 MT - a 12 week low. Barley was the biggest hitter, with 80,000 MT leaving the port bound for China.

EU wheat exports are still on track to set a new record this year however. Brussels reported that they had issued 587 TMT worth of soft wheat export licences this past week, up from 488 TMT the previous week, taking the season to date total to 27.7 MMT - a 10% rise on last season's record pace.

ADM Germany forecast this year's soft wheat crop there at 25.68 MMT, a 7.3% decline on a year ago. The German OSR crop will fall 13% to 5.44 MMT, they predict. Winter crop development is behind that of last year, but conditions are generally favourable although the crop could do with more rain, they said.

The EU-28 soft wheat crop will fall 6.3% to 139.14 MMT, they estimate.

Ukraine said that they'd exported 29.3 MMT of grains so far this season, including 10 MMT of wheat, 14.6 MMT of corn and 4.34 MMT of barley.

Early spring grains have been planted on 2.09 million ha in Ukraine, or 91% of expectations. Most of that (1.57 million ha) is barley. Corn sowing is 24% complete on 1.93 million ha. That's well behind last year's pace when well over half the crop had already been sown.

Bulgaria said that it's grain stocks as of Apr 1 were 44% up on a year ago at 3.18 MMT. Wheat exports so far this season are 22% down at 2.6 MMT. They've also exported 1.73 MMT of corn and 0.53 MMT of barley, they said.

The USDA's FAS in the Czech Republic said that crop prospects for 2015 there are good, but not as good as last year when the total grain output of 8.78 MMT was the highest since 1990.

Chicago Markets Lower Across The Board

30/04/15 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed with double digit losses, despite strong old crop weekly export sales of 433,400 MT (versus expectations of 50,000 and 250,000 MT). That included 199,300 MT for China and a further 80,400 MT to unknown destinations. New crop sales were less impressive though at a negative 118,500 MT which included decreases for China of 134,000 MT - possibly this was a switch from new crop to old crop? Exports of 264,200 MT were up 70 percent from the previous week, but down 45 percent from the prior 4-week average. Total exports so far this season now stand at 45.4 MMT, add on an additional 3.7 MMT worth of outstanding orders, and total net commitments for 2014/15 are now 49.1 MMT versus a USDA forecast for the entire season of 48.7 MMT. That doesn't help explain the front end weakness. "After firmer overnight trade that had beans making fresh 1-month highs, the day session crashed and burned on what appeared to be month-end fund selling," suggested Benson Quinn. Further support for the nearby positions should have come from news that unions at river terminals in Rosario in Argentina have begun a threatened strike. News that the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange had raised their forecast for the Argentine soybean crop to 60 MMT, up 2.6% from a week ago and an all time high, wasn't so friendly though. They said that the harvest there is now 61.8% complete. The Argentine Ag Ministry estimated farmer selling for the 2014/15 soybean crop at 28% versus 23% this time a year ago. Tonight's close put the new crop soybean:corn price ratio at 2.48:1, down from nearly 2.5:1 yesterday. May 15 Soybeans closed at $9.78 1/2, down 10 cents; Jul 15 Soybeans closed at $9.76, down 12 cents; May 15 Soybean Meal closed at $318.90, down $5.30; May 15 Soybean Oil closed at 31.51, up 4 points.

Corn: The corn market closed a little lower. Weekly export sales of 832,500 MT for delivery in 2014/15 were down 4 percent from the previous week, but up 33 percent from the prior 4-week average. New crop sales were 113,300 MT. Trade expectations were for sales of 500,000-700,000 MT on old crop and from 50,000-200,000 MT on new crop. Exports this week were nearly 1.3 MMT. Wheat crashing to new 5-year lows was a negative influence on corn again today. Argentine strike news leans a little bit friendly in the short-term. In addition to the problems in Rosario, grain terminals in San Lorenzo and San Martín also being affected. The Buenos Aires Grain Exchange increased their forecast for the Argentine 2014/15 corn crop from 23 MMT to 25 MMT. They said that the harvesting of that is now 28.4% complete. The Argentine Ag Ministry estimated farmer selling for the 2014/15 corn crop at 40% versus 29% this time a year ago. MDA CropCast forecast the 2015/16 world corn crop at 951.7 MMT, down 0.2 MMT from a week ago and 2.5% down on last year. They see output in the US at 1.38 billion bushels compared to 1.44 billion in 2014. Ukraine's crop was forecast unchanged at 24.3 MMT versus 28.4 MMT in 2014. Russia's was also unaltered from a week ago at 10.8 MMT versus 11.1 MMT in 2014. Ukraine said that their 2015 corn crop has been planted on 1.7 million ha, or 37% of the government forecast area, that's down from the 2.4 million ha that had been sown this time a year ago. The Ukraine Ag Ministry said that the country had exported 29.3 MMT of grains so far this season, of which corn comprises the largest market share at 14.6 MMT. Good planting weather in the US continues to be a problem for corn's ability to stage a rally. "The USDA is expected to publish a value close to or better than 50% of the corn planted by Sunday night" in Monday's crop progress report, said Benson Quinn. May 15 Corn closed at $3.62 1/2, down 1 1/4 cents; Jul 15 Corn closed at $3.66 1/4, down 1 1/2 cents.

Wheat: The wheat market ended with hefty losses following a weekly export sales report that came in at a net negative 449,200 MT for 2014/15 - said to be the largest net negative result in at least the last 25 years and probably ever. That was the attention grabbing headline news, although the reality of the situation was that there was simply a large volume of old crop sales rolled into new crop - the US wheat marketing year finishes at the end of May. This meant that new crop sales came in at 852,900 MT, so combined sales for both marketing years were 403,700 MT, which was in line with trade expectations. Exports of 606,600 MT were up 9 percent from the previous week and 47 percent above the prior 4-week average. "While this morning’s net cancellation of old crop wheat sales was largely the result of sales being rolled to the new crop, the timing of such a move was negative," said Benson Quinn. In other news, the Argentine Ag Ministry estimated farmer selling for the 2014/15 wheat crop at 70% versus 49% this time a year ago. The Rosario Grain Exchange said that low margins and high input costs could see Argentine wheat plantings fall 25% for the 2015/16 harvest. MDA CropCast increased their estimate for the world wheat crop in 2015/16 by 0.31 MMT to 712.2 MMT, down a little from 719.6 MMT last year. The change was down to a hike in production in Canada. They see the US all wheat crop at 2.15 billion bushels, up 4.4% on a year ago, with winter wheat production at 1.5 billion bushels versus 1.42 billion a year ago. Russia's crop was estimated unchanged from last week at 53.9 MMT (versus 58.1 MMT a year ago) and Ukraine's pegged at 23.0 MMT (down from 24.4 MMT in 2014). The US Drought Monitor said that moderate-to-extreme drought in the High Plains was 44%, compared with 41% a week earlier and 33% a year ago. Ukraine said that they'd now exported 10 MMT of wheat this season, which takes them close to the supposed "informal" 10.2 MMT limit agreed by the Ag Ministry and exporters. May 15 CBOT Wheat closed at $4.67, down 10 1/4 cents; May 15 KCBT Wheat closed at $4.90 1/4, down 10 1/2 cents; May 15 MGEX Wheat closed at $5.23 1/4, down 12 cents.

EU Grains Fail To Resist Negative Pull Of US Wheat

30/04/15 -- EU grains traded mostly higher in morning trade, continuing to consolidate recent losses. The French markets are closed tomorrow, so we maybe also saw a bit of early book-squaring and profit-taking ahead of the long weekend.

That all changed in afternoon trade though, when US markets opened amid the news from the USDA that US weekly export sales of wheat last week were the worst on record, and Chicago wheat subsequently slumped to new 5-year lows, dragging EU markets lower with it.

The session ended with May 15 London wheat officially down GBP0.10/tonne at GBP111.90/tonne, May 15 Paris wheat was EUR0.25/tonne easier at EUR178.00/tonne, Jun 15 Paris corn fell EUR0.75/tonne to EUR157.00/tonne and new front month Aug 15 Paris rapeseed sank EUR12.75/tonne to close at EUR343.75/tonne.

New crop Nov 15 London wheat fell GBP1.75/tonne to close at GBP119.55/tonne (and close to the lifetime contract low of GBP119.00/tonne set last September), narrowing the premium it now commands over old crop May 15 to GBP7.65/tonne. New crop Dec 15 Paris wheat closed at a one euro discount to May 15.

The pound rose close to 1.55 against the US dollar today, and is up more than 5% against the US currency in the past 3 weeks, on signs that the US economy is slowing. US growth in Q1 of 2015 was just 0.2%, down sharply from 2.2% in the final quarter of 2014, and well below analyst's estimates of a gain of around 1%. That puts thoughts of a US interest rate rise any time soon well onto the back burner.

Thoughts are now firmly fixed on spring planting and new crop production prospects in the northern hemisphere.

In the UK, "April was mainly dry with below average rainfall which allowed good progress to be made with spring drilling, with almost all spring barley drilled and spring oats drilled by the end of the month," said the HGCA.

They estimated that spring wheat planting is around 90% complete, along with about half of the spring OSR crop. Spring barley and oats are estimated at 95% planted.

Crop growth stages remain around ‘normal’ for the time of year, and winter grains are generally in good condition going into May, they said.

"Positive new crop prospects, along with increased pressure from the expectation of a substantial carryover of stocks, are weighing down global and national prices," they noted.

MDA CropCast estimated the EU-28 wheat crop at 143.1 MMT, unchanged from a week ago and 4.4% down on last year. They see the average EU yield at 5.67 MT/ha, slightly lower than the 5.89 MT/ha predicted by MARS earlier in the week.

They lowered their estimate for the EU-28 corn crop by 0.2 MMT to 62 MMT, a near 9% decline compared to a year ago. They have the EU barley crop unchanged from last week at 56.4 MMT versus 57.6 MMT last year.

They continue to be out on a limb with their forecast for the EU rapeseed crop in 2015, pegging that at a large looking 24.56 MMT, up 6.5% on last year - and indeed a new record! Most other analysts are lining up around the 21.5 MMT mark.

Decent rains in France are seen improving crop conditions there. With 91% of the winter wheat crop already rated good to very good, and plantings seen at the largest since 1936, they are surely in for a record crop in 2015?

Plantings are slow in Russia and Ukraine. How much of this is down to the wet weather that they have been experiencing lately - or if it could it simply be that lack of cash means that official area estimates are too high - remains to be seen.

Ukraine's spring corn crop is 37% sown on 1.7 million ha compared to the 2.4 million that had been planted at this stage a year ago. Sunflowers are 42% planted on 1.8 million ha, which is 1 million less than a year ago.

As reported yesterday, Russian sowings are similarly retarded.

Chicago Soybeans Rise For Third Day On Argentine Strikes

29/04/15 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed higher for the third session in a row. Are they planning an assault on $10/bu? There's strong resistance at that level, and a push through it would likely trigger farmer selling in both the US and South America. Argentina's main grains hub of Rosario was hit by a strike by the captains of the boats used to ferry pilots to and from grain ships wanting to enter the port today. Talk of a separate Argentine crush union strike being imminent also lent support to the already tight old crop, and new crop went along for the ride. The new crop soybean:corn price ratio is now close to 2.5:1 based on tonight's closing levels, which should encourage increased soybean plantings in the US. Talk that weather conditions in the US are improving is giving rise to the notion that corn plantings will have accelerated this week, leaving less acres to potentially be switched into beans. A cut in the subsidies for local soybean growers in China could reduce their 2015 soybean plantings by 20%, said CNGOIC. Morocco, Vietnam and Malaysia are all reported to be in the market for soymeal. Trade estimates for tomorrow's weekly export sales report for beans are 50,000 and 250,000 MT on the old crop, and between 200,000 and 400,000 MT on the new crop. May 15 Soybeans closed at $9.88 1/2, up 11 cents; Jul 15 Soybeans closed at $9.88, up 10 3/4 cents; May 15 Soybean Meal closed at $324.20, up $5.50; May 15 Soybean Oil closed at 31.47, up 24 points.

Corn: The corn market closed with net gains of around 3 cents. The USDA announced 130,000 MT of US corn sold to Taiwan for 2014/15 shipment under the daily reporting system. Trade estimates for tomorrow's weekly export sales report, in which the Taiwanese sale won't be included, are around 500,000 to 700,000 MT on old crop and from 50,000-200,000 MT on new crop. The trade is expecting huge strides to have been made with corn planting in the US this week, when the USDA report on that on Monday, with some suggesting 50% of the crop might be in the ground by Sunday night. That means that 31% of the crop needs to get sown this week to hit that target, a big number, although 25% in a week has been done before. "Strong warming is expected to dominate the US heartland in the 7 day forecast. Strong showers are also predicted, beginning later this week. A trough of low pressure would develop in the jet stream over the southwest United States, spreading showers northward into the Texas panhandle, Oklahoma and Kansas, then bending eastward across Missouri into Illinois," said Martell Crop Projections. South Africa's CEC raised their forecast for corn production there this year by 1% to 9.76 MMT. South Korea's NOFI bought 65,000 MT of optional origin corn for Dec shipment. South Korea's MFG bought 132,000 MT of optional origin corn for Nov shipment. The US Energy Dept reported weekly ethanol production at 921k barrels/day, down from 930k bpd the previous week. Stocks were 545,000 barrels lower at 20.797 million barrels. May 15 Corn closed at $3.63 3/4, up 2 3/4 cents; Jul 15 Corn closed at $3.67 3/4, up 3 1/4 cents.

Wheat: The wheat market nudged higher for a second day on what looks like light short-covering. Funds were estimated as net buyers of around 2,000 lots in Chicago on the day. A suddenly weaker US dollar was friendly for once. A Bloomberg survey estimated the US winter wheat crop at 1.484 billion bushels, up 7.7% on a year ago. The range of estimates was 1.385 to 1.553 billion bushels. Output in the top producing state of Kansas will jump to 298 million bushels, up 21% compared to last year's drought-ravaged crop, the survey found. Production in Oklahoma meanwhile will more than double to 109 million bushels, according to the average trade guess. The Russian Deputy PM indicated that the export duty on wheat would be reduced, but not done away with altogether, in the first half of next month. South Korea's NOFI are in the market for 69,000 MT of wheat. South Korea's KFMC are said to have passed on a tender to import 32,200 TMT of Australian wheat. Jordan bought 100,000 MT of what is believed to be Romanian wheat for Dec/Jan shipment. Weather conditions for winter wheat are seen improving in Europe, Russia and Ukraine. Spring plantings in Russia are being delayed by rain, with spring crop sowing more than 20% behind last year's pace. Barley sowings are down 26% and wheat planting is 11% behind the pace of a year ago. Trade estimates for tomorrow's weekly export sales report for wheat are likely in the region of 300,000 to 500,000 MT. May 15 CBOT Wheat closed at $4.77 1/4, up 5 3/4 cents; May 15 KCBT Wheat closed at $5.00 3/4, up 3 1/2 cents; May 15 MGEX Wheat closed at $5.35 1/4, up 6 3/4 cents.

EU Grains Closing Comments - Wednesday Night

29/04/15 -- EU grains closed mixed on the day, with wheat mostly consolidating a little higher following recent losses.

The day ended with May 15 London wheat up GBP0.25/tonne at GBP112.00/tonne, May 15 Paris wheat closed EUR0.50/tonne higher at EUR178.25/tonne, Jun 15 Paris corn was EUR0.50/tonne lower at EUR157.75/tonne and May 15 Paris rapeseed was up EUR4.00/tonne at EUR382.75/tonne.

This was a new one year high on a front month for Paris rapeseed, with the old crop May 15 contract going off the board tomorrow. The new front month position, new crop Aug 15, closed EUR2.75/tonne lower at EUR356.50/tonne.

Old crop rapeseed availability in France is clearly tight and technical, with 2014/15 ending stocks pegged at less than 90,000 MT.

Following a largely dry past couple of weeks, almost the whole of Europe, barring southern Spain and Italy, are forecast to receive better than average rains across the next fortnight. That should be beneficial to both winter grains and newly planted spring crops.

French corn planting progress is expected to have made great strides in the past week. FranceAgriMer will update us on that tomorrow, although their figures will only be based on plantings as of Monday night.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich was reported as saying that the country was set to reduce to export duty on wheat at some point during the first half of May.

The tax won't go away completely, but will be eased back closer to zero, and the government will then apply a formula linking it to the value of the rouble, and the price of grain on the global market.

If the rouble weakens, or grain prices rise sharply (however unlikely that seems at the moment!), then the duty will increase, he indicated. This might suggest that some sort of export tax will remain on wheat into new crop.

The Russian Ag Ministry said that they'd bought 57,645 TMT of grains at today's intervention purchase round, taking the total purchased so far (since Sep 30) to 783,655 MT. Farmer sales have picked up noticably since the duty was introduced.

The Ministry also said that spring plantings in Russia have now been completed on 4.9 million ha, or 15.8% of plan. That's well behind last year's pace of 6.2 million ha.

The area sown so far includes 560.6k ha of spring wheat (4.3% of the government forecast), 2.5 million ha (25%) of barley and almost 1 million ha (35.2%) of corn.

On the international tender front, private Egyptian buyers were said to have picked up around 26,000 MT of Argentine wheat. Algeria were reported to have booked around 141,000 MT of Argentine corn. South Korea were said to have bought 69,000 MT of optional origin feed wheat. Jordan were said to have bought 100,000 MT of probably Romanian wheat for Dec/Jan shipment.

Chicago Grains End Mostly A Little Higher

28/04/15 -- Soycomplex: Beans and meal closed with small gains, and oil was lower. The fact that tonight's close has pushed the new crop soybean:corn price ratio up to 2.49:1 - the highest in almost 7 months - suggests that soybeans may struggle to climb much higher than this, unless we see a turnaround in the corn market. The USDA reported the sale of 390 TMT of US beans to "unknown" for 2015/16 shipment, which may have lent some support to new crop today. Reports that an Argentine newspaper was saying that oilseed crush workers there are looking for a 42% pay rise, and may strike on Monday to try to get it, may have helped old crop. Oil World raised their forecast for the world 2014/15 soybean crop by 3.1 MMT to a record 315.9 MMT, a 12% increase versus last season. Global output of the seven major oilseeds will rise 6.4% to 518.2 MMT, and the stocks to use ratio will climb to 21% from 17% a year ago, they added. APK Inform said that Ukraine farmers would plant a record 2.15 million ha of soybeans this year, up 19% on a year ago, and harvest an all-time high 4.2 MMT crop (up 8% compared to 2014). May 15 Soybeans closed at $9.77 1/2, up 4 1/2 cents; Jul 15 Soybeans closed at $9.77 1/4, up 4 1/4 cents; May 15 Soybean Meal closed at $318.70, up $3.60; May 15 Soybean Oil closed at 31.23, down 43 points.

Corn: The corn market ended barely changed, and traded in a narrow range of only 4-5 cents either way. US weather leans conducive to decent planting progress being made with corn this week and next. Weather models seem to be in pretty good agreement that warmer weather will push in from the west in the May 1-5 time frame, although there's some disagreement beyond that. Whilst yesterday's number of 19% complete on corn planting was towards the low end of trade expectations, it was 2 points ahead of a year ago when yields went on to throw the record book out of the window. The Argentine corn harvest is estimated to be around a quarter of the way through. Planting in Ukraine is said to be around a quarter done, and Russia is past 28% complete. Production in Ukraine could fall to around 22-23 MMT versus circa 28.5 MMT a year ago it is thought. Taiwan’s MFIG were said to have bought 120-130 TMT of US corn overnight for June-July shipment. Germany's Deutsche Maiskomitee said that corn planting there will drop around 1% to 2.55 million hectares this year. That includes 1.15 million ha of corn for silage, 912k ha of corn for biogas usage and 441k ha of corn for grain. Coceral estimated the latter at 465k ha in March. May 15 Corn closed at $3.61, up 1/4 cent; Jul 15 Corn closed at $3.64 1/2, down 1/4 cent.

Wheat: The wheat market closed higher, with Kansas and Minneapolis posting the best gains. The fact that the USDA left US winter wheat crop ratings unchanged in last night's crop condition report may have triggered some modest profit-taking, as an increase of 1-2 points in the good to excellent category was what the market was expecting. It's hardly what you would call a major reversal though from the near 5-year lows posted yesterday. "The fact of the matter is the trend remains intact despite the ever growing net short fund position," noted Benson Quinn. That record short position is likely to be even larger now than it was in last week's Commitment of Traders Report, even with some modest net fund buying today (estimated at around 1,000 contracts in Chicago wheat). South Korea's Samyang Corporation has announced a tender for the purchase of 30 TMT of US wheat. South Korea's KFM are in the market for 32.2 TMT of Australian wheat. Russia said that their spring wheat crop is only 3.2% planted so far. Barley planting is 27.3% complete. India said that they may end up buying less than the originally intended 30 MMT of domestic wheat from their 2015 harvest due to quality issues with their rain/hail damaged crop. May 15 CBOT Wheat closed at $4.71 1/2, up 1 1/4 cents; May 15 KCBT Wheat closed at $4.97 1/4, up 6 1/2 cents; May 15 MGEX Wheat closed at $5.30, up 5 1/2 cents.

New Lows For EU Wheat, But Rapeseed Sets Fresh One Year High

28/04/15 -- EU grains closed mixed, but wheat pressed on to new lows for the recent move.

At the finish, May 15 London wheat was down GBP0.70/tonne at GBP111.75/tonne; May 15 Paris wheat was EUR1.75/tonne lower at EUR177.75/tonne; Jun 15 Paris corn was down EUR1.25/tonne at EUR158.25/tonne; May 15 Paris rapeseed was EUR2.00/tonne higher at EUR378.75/tonne.

Whilst wheat both sides of the Channel was setting new 5-6 month lows, following last night's near 5-year low close in Chicago, rapeseed closed at a one year high for a front month. New crop Nov 15 Paris rapeseed set a contract high EUR366/tonne on Friday, although it's retreated a little since then.

The old crop May 15 versus new crop Nov 15 London wheat spread ha snow narrowed to GBP8.30/tonne, down from GBP10.05/tonne just last Friday, although that still represents an unusually large premium. The Dec 15 Paris wheat contract, which had been running at only a very small premium of a couple of euros or so to the old crop May 15 position, now stands at a quarter of a euro discount.

Widespread rains across much of the UK today, and more in the forecast for the Bank Holiday weekend, will bring some welcome and needed moisture for many UK growers - particularly those in the south east.

News that UK economic growth slowed to just 0.3% in Q1 of 2015, down from 0.6% in the last quarter of 2014, seemed to make little difference to the pound. That closed above 1.53 versus the US dollar for the first time since Mar 3.

Sterling also continues to threaten to break through the 1.40 level against the euro - it hasn't spent any prolonged time up there since late 2007.

This apparent strength in the UK currency won't do anything to aid export hopes in either crop year. New crop Russian/Ukraine 12.5% milling wheat is quoted around the $190-195/tonne region FOB the Black Sea. That's the equivalent of around GBP124-127.50/tonne, which makes the Nov 15 London feed wheat future look expensive at GBP120/tonne or thereabouts.

Russia said that they'd planted spring grains on 4.1 million ha so far, that's 13.2% of the expected area, and 1.2 million less than had been sown this time a year ago as wet weather has been holding things back.

That total includes 420.7k ha of wheat, 2.2 million ha of barley, 793.3k ha of corn and 991.7k ha of sunflowers.

Ukraine said that they'd planted early spring grains on 2.1 million ha, or 91% of the expected area. Most of that is barley (1.6 million ha, or 90% of intentions). They've also sown over 1 million ha of corn, around a quarter of the intended area, and 1.4 million ha of sunflower (about a third of expectations).

UkrAgroConsult said that they expect the combined grain output in Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan to fall around 9% to 164 MMT this year, down from 180.5 MMT in 2014. Exports from the three could drop 8.6% to 64 MMT, they added.

APK Inform said that Ukraine farmers would plant a record 2.15 million ha of soybeans this year, a 19% rise compared to 2014, as they search for a more potentially profitable (and less input hungry) spring crop than corn. Output was forecast to rise 8% to 4.2 MMT, much of which will be destined for Europe.

Egypt said that they'd bought 447 TMT of wheat on the domestic market since they began their government purchasing programme around a week ago. They expect to eventually buy 3.7 MMT locally, and ultimately aim to cut their reliance on imports.

Chicago Wheat Ends At Near 5-Year Low

27/04/15 -- Soycomplex: Beans closed narrowly mixed. The USDA announcing 158,000 MT of old crop beans sold to unknown destinations was supportive to the nears. Weekly export inspections of 311,622 MT were also friendly on old crop, being more than double last week's total. "Strong local cash markets amid a dearth of farmer selling had the May/July spread trading into even money....selling of corn vs. buying of beans on the spread was also a key feature today as weather bodes well for additional corn acres to get planted this week to the possible loss of beans after a slowish start to the corn planting season," said Benson Quinn. After the close the USDA reported soybean planting at 2% complete versus the 5-year average of 4% done. The most advanced states are unsurprisingly in the south, with Mississippi 39% done, Louisiana 25% sown and Arkansas 16% complete. The soybean:corn price ratio finished the day at 2.48:1 versus less than 2.3:1 in late March. Allendale said that the spread of bird flu in the US won't, or at least shouldn't, have a significant impact on US crop prices, equating to a drop in soymeal demand of less than one percentage point, according to a report on Bloomberg. The EU's MARS unit raised their forecast for EU rapeseed yields from the 3.24 MT/ha predicted a month ago to 3.35 MT/ha. That's 6.4% below last year but 6.3% above the prior 5-year average. Ukraine said that they'd sown around 32% of this year's sunflower crop and some 10% of the area predicted to go into soybeans. Ukraine’s soybean exports in March were a record for the month at 216,800 MT, and almost three times higher than those of a year ago, said Bloomberg. May 15 Soybeans closed at $9.73, up 3 1/4 cents; Jul 15 Soybeans closed at $9.73, up 2 1/4 cents; May 15 Soybean Meal closed at $315.10, up $0.50; May 15 Soybean Oil closed at 31.66, down one point.

Corn: The corn market closed around 3-5 cents lower, with the May 15 future ending at the lowest level on a front month in 6 months. An improved US weather forecast was seen as bearish. Wheat slumping to the lowest since June 2010 was also negative. "Midwest corn planting is expected to pick up momentum this week with a warmer and drier forecast west of the Mississippi Valley. Night freezes were common in the Upper Midwest this past week, soil temperatures chilling below 50 F, the threshold temperature for corn germination. The forecast this week calls for strong warming west of the Mississippi River encouraging corn planting. The 6-10 forecast is warm in the Midwest at large that would also accelerate corn planting," said Martell Crop Projections. Weekly export inspections of almost 1.3 MMT were friendly. After the close the USDa reported corn planting at 19% complete, up from 9% done a week ago, but behind the 5-year average pace of 25% done. That was kind of in line with where many in the trade expected it to be, and it's also 2 points ahead of this time last year when yields went on to set new records. Notable laggards are Indiana at only 3% done versus 26% normally, Kentucky at 7% versus 45%, Ohio at 2% versus 20% and Tenessee at 17% versus 60% on average. Corn emergence was placed at 2% versus 3% a year ago and 6% for the 5-year average. In other news, the EU's MARS increased their forecast for EU-28 corn yields from 7.19 MT/ha to 7.22 MT/ha, a 9% decline on last year but 3% above the 5-year average. They cut their outlook on Ukraine though from the 6.22 MT/ha forecast a month ago to 5.6 MT/ha, down 7% on 6.02 MT/ha a year ago but in line with the 5-year average. French corn yields are forecast at 9.33 MT/ha versus 9.12 MT/ha a month ago, down from 10.38 MT/ha a year ago but still slightly above the recent average. Ukraine seaports exported 358.5 TMT of corn last week, up from 221.7 TMT the previous week, according to APK Inform. Ukraine's Ag Ministry said that corn planting there was now 24% complete. They have plantings estimated at 4 million ha, which suggests a crop of 22.4 MMT using the MARS yield forecast. Production in Ukraine was 28.45 MMT last year, according to the USDA. May 15 Corn closed at $3.60 3/4, down 3 3/4 cents; Jul 15 Corn closed at $3.64 3/4, down 5 cents.

Wheat: The wheat market ended with double digit losses, and Chicago wheat now sits at the lowest levels seen on a front month in almost 5 years. "Technicals remain weak, but oversold. In addition to limited demand for US supplies, resistance is also stemming from the prospects of winter wheat crop showing improvement due to recent rains and favourable temps on this afternoon’s crop progress report," said Benson Quinn. After the close the USDA actually reported winter wheat rated good to excellent at 42%, unchanged for the second week in a row when a 2 point rise is what many in the market were forecasting. Winter wheat at the headed stage was placed at 28%, up from 16% a week ago and 17% a year ago and 24% for the preceding 5-year average. Spring wheat plantings continue to be brisk at 55% done versus 36% a week ago, only 17% a year ago and versus 29% for the 5-year average. Spring wheat emergence is in line with average at 9%. Spring barley is 56% planted versus 35% on average. "Rainfall has increased sharply in the Midwest and Great Plains over the past 2 weeks, though rain may be too late to bolster the yield (of winter wheat)," said Martell Crop Projections. Russia said that it's wheat shipments had slowed to 1.37 MMT since the new export duty came into force (Feb 1 to Apr 22). That compares to 3.32 MMT in the same period a year previously. Barley exports are up significantly though, from 258 TMT in 2014 to 1.55 MMT this year. Russia's season to date wheat exports are still higher than they were in 2013/14 though, at 19.84 MMT versus 16.56 MMT a year previously. The EU's MARS unit raised their forecast for EU-28 soft wheat yields from 5.79 MT/ha to 5.89 MT/ha, down 3% on a year ago but 3.7% above the 5-year average. Barley and corn yields in Europe were also increased. Reuters reported that Morocco would harvest a record 11 MMT grain crop this year following good winter and spring rains. That will have a negative impact on their import requirements. They begin harvesting wheat and barley next month. May 15 CBOT Wheat closed at $4.70 1/4, down 15 3/4 cents; May 15 KCBT Wheat closed at $4.90 3/4, down 11 1/2 cents; May 15 MGEX Wheat closed at $5.24 1/2, down 10 1/2 cents.

EU Wheat Prices Slip To Multi-Month Lows As Yield Prospects Raised

27/04/15 -- EU grains closed mostly lower to start the week, with Paris wheat ending below EUR180/tonne for the first time on a front month since Nov 24. London wheat finished at the lowest on a front month in more than 6 months.

The session ended with May 15 London wheat down GBP0.95/tonne at GBP112.45/tonne, May 15 Paris wheat was EUR3.50/tonne lower at EUR179.50/tonne, Jun 15 Paris corn fell EUR1.25/tonne to EUR159.50/tonne and May 15 Paris rapeseed managed a net gain of EUR1.25/tonne to close at EUR376.75/tonne.

The EU Commission's crop monitoring arm, MARS, raised their forecast for EU-28 yields of soft wheat, barley, rapeseed and corn from a month ago - essentially estimating yields of all four crops to be below last year's bumper results but better than the previous five year average in all cases.

They estimate the 2015 EU-29 soft wheat yield at 5.89 MT/ha, up from the 5.79 MT/ha predicted a month ago. That's 3% down on last year's 6.07 MT/ha, but 3.7% above the 5-year average.

For barley they go for an average yield of 4.71 MT/ha versus 4.63 MT/ha in March, down 3.6% compared to 4.89 MT/ha a year ago, but 2.5% higher than the previous 5-year average.

They now predict an average corn yield of 7.22 MT/ha this year. That's up from 7.19 MT/ha a month ago, 9% down on last year's 7.93 MT/ha, but 3% above the average for the last 5 years.

For OSR they estimate average yields of 3.35 MT/ha versus 3.25 MT/ha a month ago. That's down 6.4% compared to last year's 3.57 MT/ha, but again above the recent average by 6.9%.

Warmer than normal conditions prevailed almost everywhere in Europe in the period under review (Mar 1 to Apr 20), although it was also drier than normal in large parts of central and western Europe, they said. Conditions have been largely favourable for winter crop growth and spring plantings, they added.

This is certainly true of the UK, although crops in the south would now welcome some rain, they suggested. Luckily, that's exactly what's in the forecast too.

As far as UK yields are concerned, they reflect the potential seen elsewhere - below last year but better than the recent average. That shouldn't be too difficult given some of the poor results seen in recent years.

For wheat they predict an average UK yield of 8.08 MT/ha, down 6.3% on 8.62 MT/ha last year, but 5.8% above the 5-year average. For barley they go for a figure of 6.04 MT/ha, down 7.1% from a year ago but 2.4% above average, For rapeseed they predict an average yield of 3.68 MT/ha versus 3.71 MT/ha in 2014, but still 5.1% above the recent average.

In other news, APK Inform said that Ukraine seaports exported 503.9 TMT of grains in the past week, up from 298.5 TMT the previous week. Wheat accounted for 83 TMT, corn 358.5 TMT and barley 58 TMT of the past week's total.

Russian seaports exported 236.6 TMT of grains, up from 202.8 TMT the previous week. Wheat made up 46.1 TMT, corn 101.6 TMT and barley 82.9 TMT of the most recent week's total, they added.

As expected, Russia's exports have dropped off significantly since the export duty on wheat was introduced on Feb 1. Since then (to Apr 22) then country has exported 4 MMT of grains versus 4.9 MMT in the same period a year ago. Wheat shipments have more than halved in that period to 1.37 MMT.

That means however than carryover into 2015/16 will be high. Russian grain stocks as of Apr 1 were 22.7 MMT, up 3.4 MMT (or 17.3% higher) compared to a year ago.

IKAR said that Russian rains in March and April have improved crop production prospects. They now forecast the 2015 Russian grain crop at 95-101 MMT versus the official Ministry estimate of 105.3 MMT in 2014. Exports in 2015/16 are estimated at 26-31 MMT, of which 17-21 MMT will be wheat, they said. Russian exports so far this season are at 27.36 MMT, including 19.84 MMT of wheat, according to the latest Ministry figures.

So, it's starting to look like the bulls best hope for a decent rally in the wheat market - sharply lower production in Russia/Ukraine in 2015 - isn't as likely to happen as seemed possible a few months ago.

US wheat futures closed down heavily again tonight - Chicago wheat finished at the lowest for a front month since the last day of June 2010. Fund money has made a lot of money on the way down, and the latest figures show them to be sitting on a record large short position approaching 100k lots in Chicago wheat - the equivalent of more than 13 MMT.

Perhaps the best hope for the bulls now is for something unexpected to come from left field to spook them into stampeding to covering that short position in. But what and when?