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Why corn is staying above $4.00

Agriculture.com Staff 07/06/2010 @ 5:06pm

This column has been dedicated to helping women who are interested in commodity marketing increase their knowledge and skills. This month, I thought I'd offer a basic analysis of what is happening in the markets, and what might unfold based on historical price patterns.

After a volatile winter in the markets, with many analysts suggesting the notion of low $3.00 corn or possibly lower, corn futures remain resilient -- firmly proclaiming that corn is well-valued near the $4.00 area.

Many of you may be wondering why $4.00 corn is holding, and why the price is not surging higher or plunging lower. The answer lies in the delayed planting and potential yield loss ahead of us.

Yield makes all the difference. Last year, corn was either planted late or re-planted late due to flooding, yet yield was not hurt too much, because the summer weather was conducive to overall yields.

This year, we have the same delayed planting due soggy fields, yet a scorching summer could be a detriment to late planted crops. Pollination will now come later, in the midst of a potential furnace blast of heat.

The chart below shows three potential scenarios for the SUPPLY side of this year's U.S. corn crop.

Column A represents the USDA numbers from one year ago.

Column B represents the most recent USDA estimate of this year's corn crop.

Column C represents what might happen if it gets to be a bit too warm this summer, and yields drop. Notice in this example, the planted and harvested acres are kept the same as the latest USDA estimate, and the only category changed is yield. A 3.4 bushels/acre drop in yield lowers ending stocks to .8656 billion bushels, which for many is cause for alarm and merits price to rise.

Column D represents what might happen if corn acres are reduced by 1 million acres, due to the soggy spring weather. The loss in planted acres, with yield kept unchanged from this May's USDA report (assuming ideal growing weather this summer), lowers ending stocks to under 1 billion bushels, which would merit price to rally.

Column E represents an increase in potential planted acres followed by strong yields, which in the end, raises ending stocks and allows the market "breathing room." There is no fear of running out of corn; therefore, prices potentially might fall.

Bottom line, expect prices to remain near this $4.00 area (CBOT price) until either we have a solid grasp on planted acres or a clearer idea of summer weather. Then, be prepared for prices to either rally or decrease, depending on the outcome of the above.

If you have questions, you can email me at nblohm@stewart-peterson.com, or post your question in our Women in Ag discussion group. I monitor marketing questions from readers there, and would be glad to answer your questions.

This column has been dedicated to helping women who are interested in commodity marketing increase their knowledge and skills. This month, I thought I'd offer a basic analysis of what is happening in the markets, and what might unfold based on historical price patterns.

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