Price volatility continues

By Doug Tenney, Leist Mercantile

Mid-March price volatility continues to be huge for all the grains. Wheat has experienced by far the largest number of limit days since early February. Daily limits for wheat expanded multiple times, finally reaching $1.30 and then declining to 85 cents just before St. Patrick’s Day. The normal daily range for wheat is 50 cents. Updated daily limits will be announced later this month, remaining in effect until Nov. 1. Wheat has been the most volatile commodity since the Russia invasion into Ukraine.

Upcoming USDA reports 

USDA was scheduled to release two potential market moving reports on March 31: Planting Intentions, and Quarterly Grain Stocks. Trade estimates for the Planting Intentions Report were lacking at this writing. USDA will release the first supply and demand tables for the 2022 U.S. growing season on May 12. Three weeks ago trade estimates for 2022 US corn and soybean acres were very similar to 2021 numbers. With U.S. hay acres at the lows of several decades, it is difficult to bring huge amounts of acres out of hay and into additional corn or soybeans.

Grain shipments in limbo 

The Russia/Ukraine conflict raises much uncertainty as to when wheat and corn already sold for shipment from Russia and Ukraine but not yet shipped, will take place. Trade estimates mid-March placed the return to grain shipped from Ukraine to be 4 to 7 months once the conflict ends. Ukraine export shipments are in limbo. Roads, highway and railroad bridges will need to be repaired. Roughly, 15 million tons of Ukraine corn exports and 15 million tons of Ukraine wheat exports are on hold.

U.S. Grain exports

Grain export shipments as of March 14 continue to be behind the pace of last year for corn, soybeans, and wheat. At that time, corn exports totaled 1.020 billion bushels, last year 1.188 billion bushels; soybean exports were 1.548 billion bushels, last year 1.959 billion bushels; wheat exports were 595 million bushels, last year 712 million bushels. The March 9 WASDE projected U.S. exports for 2021-2022 at: corn, 2.5 billion bushels; soybeans, 2.09 billion bushels; wheat, 800 million bushels.  

USDA continues to be slow in moving grain demand numbers higher. This is not a new phenomenon as it mirrors USDA past experience history. Current trade estimates place U.S. corn exports for this marketing year ending Aug. 31 at 2.7 to 2.8 billion bushels. The March 9 WASDE report continued to very slowly account for reduced South America soybean and corn production declines due to drought conditions which have lasted for months. In addition, the now in limbo Ukraine corn and wheat exports will need to be replaced in some fashion from other exporting countries. China currently has six million tons of corn bought from the Ukraine, with the shipping dates unknown. It will not occur before July 1 at the earliest. China is not able to import corn from South America due to phytosanitary grain standards imposed by China.

Don’t be surprised if USDA waits until the May 12 WASDE to provide much greater details of world grain exports and imports in light of current events. Corn, soybeans, and wheat are still in a demand driven price mode. It would appear USDA does not want to provide further ammunition to the forefront of inflation, already seen at 40 year highs. 

Weather 

The 90-day NOAA weather forecast has above normal temperatures for much of the U.S. Midwest. Below normal rains are expected in Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Above normal rains are expected in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. Of vast concern is that the current dry conditions now seen in the U.S. Plains can often be extended into the western Corn Belt, and with time, move into the eastern Corn Belt.  

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