International Agriculture News

US corn export sales hit 23-year high

Come, come US farm official. You are being too modest.

Sure, the US Department of Agriculture was right in saying that the 2.51m tonnes in US corn export sales in the week to last Thursday was “a marketing-year high”.

But it was actually the highest in a number of marketing years, going back 23 seasons in fact, to a particularly strong performance in December 1994.

That month accounted for two of the four better weekly performances than 2.51m tonnes, on data going back to 1990.

‘Strong upward march’

As two why US shipments were so popular, attractive prices, compared with rival origins, look one factor.

The US Department of Agriculture a week ago raised its forecast for US corn exports by 4.4m tonnes to 56.5m tonnes, citing “competitive prices and continued strong foreign demand”.

While a “strong upward march” in prices over the previous month had raised US quotes by $18 a tonne to $183 a tonne, Black Sea offers were up the same amount at $193 a tonne, and Argentine prices “soared $19 a tonne to $186 amid continued weather concerns”, the USDA said.

Brazilian domestic corn prices were up 24% over the month to last Thursday, according to Cepea.

Steel vs corn

Worries over tit-for-tat trade levies with the US, after Washington announced tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, might be another.

The top three buyers of US corn in the latest were Japan, with net purchases of 838,000 tonnes, Taiwan, at 388,600 tonnes, and South Korea, at 206,800 tonnes.

All three countries are among the top 10 exporters of steel to the US.

Cotton on

Cotton export data were also decent.

Not that export sales statistics of 321,416 running bales of upland cotton, while strong, were important, with the US already rich in orders of the fibre.

(Indeed, on commitments, ie unfulfilled orders and completed shipments combined, the US cotton export performance rose above the USDA’s forecast for shipments for the whole of 2017-18, upgraded last week to 13.74m running bales.

And there is still more than four months of the season to go.)

The market’s eye, as ever, was on the pace of shipments, which at 414,000 running bales for upland cotton were above the (rapid) weekly pace needed to meet the full-season forecast, if down 110,000 running bales week on week.

Two-month low

For soybeans, the 1.27m tonnes of US exports sold in the week to March 8 was just above the range of market expectations, of 800,000-1.20m tonnes, if below the 2.51m tonnes sold the previous week.

However, the wheat export sales figure, at a two-month low of 162,800 tonnes, fell well short of expectations of 250,000-500,000 tonnes, besides being down 58% week on week.

The higher protein (and price) wheats were particularly responsible for the downturn, with hard red spring wheat export sales, at 59,700 tonnes, down by more than one-half week on week.

Hard red winter wheat export sales, plunged by 84% week on week to 6,830 tonnes.

It looks like the surge in hard red winter wheat futures in particular, on worries over southern Plains drought, is doing in spades its job of destroying demand.