Saturday, March 31, 2012

Nice article illustrating Opportunity Costs, the PPF and Supply and Demand in Agricultural Markets...

Farmers’ corn push to hit soyabeans (The Financial Times)

Food commodity prices rose after US farmers signalled plans to sow the most corn in 75 years, taking away land from soyabeans, which are facing a fall in supplies due to droughts in South America.
A US government survey of 84,500 farm operators indicated they would plant 95.9m acres (38.4m hectares) with corn this spring, 4 per cent more than last year, the most since 1937 and above expectations. Plantings of soyabeans, often rotated with corn, would fall 1 per cent from last year to 73.9m acres (29.6m hectares), with declines in such fertile states as Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska.

The US is the world’s leading exporter of corn and vies with Brazil in soyabean exports, so decisions made there are vital to global food markets. A growing world population and rising incomes in emerging economies have driven greater appetites for the crops, used in products from pig feed to vegetable oil.

Oilseed traders are increasingly on edge after a severe drought hurt the current soyabean crop in South America. The US Department of Agriculture’s annual Prospective Plantings report sent related canola and rapeseed futures markets higher in Canada and Europe. China buys three of every five bushels of the world’s soyabean imports.

“This is the annus horribilis for South American grain production. La Niña hit all the wrong places. For soyabeans, it makes the US all the more important,” said Nick Higgins, commodity analyst at Rabobank, the Dutch bank that is one of the biggest lenders to the agribusiness industry.

The US also said stocks of domestic corn left over from last year’s harvest totalled 6bn bushels on March 1, down 8 per cent from a year ago. The number was slightly lower than anticipated and suggested very low inventories before this year’s harvest begins.

CBOT May corn, which reflects the old crop, rose 6.6 per cent to $6.44 a bushel in Chicago. December corn gained just 3.1 per cent.

CBOT May soyabeans added 3.5 per cent to reach $14.03 a bushel, while soyabeans for November delivery rose 4.1 per cent. ICE May canola rose 3.2 per cent to C$622.50 a tonne in Winnipeg, touching the highest price since the global food crisis of 2007-08.

Corn peaked at a record of almost $8 a bushel last June as growers sought to meet demand from livestock producers and the US ethanol industry. If farmers follow through with planting intentions and yields are good, this year’s crop could break records, helping ease concerns about food prices.
The USDA also said that farmers intended to plant 13.2m acres of cotton, 11 per cent below last year.
Wheat acres are growing 3 per cent from a year ago to 55.9m acres.
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