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Any chance for a recovery in crop prices?

Agriculture.com Staff 01/19/2010 @ 1:25pm

The prices of corn, soybeans, and wheat remain under pressure a week after the release of the USDA reports revealing surprisingly large supplies. Soybean prices were declining before the reports were released, but March 2010 futures have declined an additional $.40 in the past five trading sessions. March 2009 corn futures have declined about $.50, and March 2009 wheat futures are down about $.70.

Price declines have been larger than anticipated. The large decline suggests that the market has overreacted to the new information and/or that prices are reflecting additional factors. First, the late harvest suggests more uncertainty about the 2009 corn and soybean production estimates and the December 1 stocks estimates than would typically be the case. More clarity will be provided in March. For soybeans, marketing year supplies are estimated to be 322 million bushels larger than supplies of a year ago.

However, stocks as of December 1, 2009 were only 61 million larger than stocks on December 1, 2008. The relatively small December 1 stocks estimates this year reflects the extremely large level of exports during the first quarter of the marketing year and a modest increase in the domestic crush. In addition, the calculated seed, feed, and residual use of soybeans during the first quarter of the marketing year was also very large, totaling 185.3 million bushels. That is double the disappearance of a year ago and 45 million larger than the previous record use in 2003. On the surface, the large disappearance suggests the 2009 crop may have been over estimated. That possibility cannot be confirmed until the March 1 stocks estimate is released.

Both the pace of exports (sales and shipments) and domestic crush remain at a rate above that required to reach the USDA's projection for the year. Both are expected to decline as the year progresses and the South American crop becomes available. Some areas of late season dryness in South America could result in a slightly smaller crop than currently projected. The rate of use, then, should be a supportive factor.

For corn, the estimate of December 1 stocks implied a 6.5% year-over-year increase in the domestic feed and residual use of corn during the first quarter of the year. The large increase is counter-intuitive given poor livestock margins and large increases in the availability of distiller's grains. The large level of use may also imply an over-estimate of the 2009 crop.

The uncertainty surrounding the production and stocks estimates due to the late harvest preclude conclusions at this point. In the mean time, the pace of new export sales and weekly shipments remain well below the pace needed to reach USDA's projection of marketing year exports.

For wheat, the projection of large year ending stocks was decidedly negative for near term price prospects. The pace of new sales and weekly shipments remain below the pace needed to reach even the extremely low level now being projected by the USDA.

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