Global Feed Markets: May - June 2012

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					Digital Re-print - May | June 2012
     Global Feed Markets: May - June 2012

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                                       GRAIN & FEED MARKETS
                                            Every issue GFMT’s market analyst John Buckley reviews
                                          world trading conditions which are impacting the full range of
                                        commodities used in food and feed production. His observations
                                                       will influence your decision-making.

                                         ‘Between-crops,’ consumers
Global consumption
                                       hope for big feed grain recovery
           of wheat is

                                              ARKET dynamics are swinging firmly          in the absence of competition with very little overall
     expected to fall                         toward 2012 crop and demand                 supply growth expected for the alternative oilseeds
                                              prospects - and what a mixed bag the        that make up almost two thirds of world production.
       back too next                          preliminary estimates present!                 Mother nature, as always, will have the final say on
                                 If all goes to plan, feed consumers could be cheering    crop yields and production which, as last year showed,
  season, by about            an 86m-tonne recovery in world coarse grain (mainly         could look quite different to the forecasts once the last
                              maize) production, two thirds of that coming from           combines have come to rest. Right now, the biggest
       8m tonnes, as          within the USA. That would be quite some rebound            producer, the USA, is getting mostly favourable
                              after the past season’s 45m tonne crop decline. It          weather for possible record yields and earlier harvests.
  various countries           would not only leave plenty of room for expanding           Europe has been severely challenged by winter frosts
                              coarse grain consumption around the globe. It would         and droughts yet abundant rain might yet rescue
    use more maize            also allow for some significant replenishment of rock-      decent crops in most member states. Further east
                              bottom stocks, removing much of justification for the       there are dark mutterings about drought re-emerging
  (assuming the big           past year’s record maize costs. Indeed some pundits         in the former Soviet Union – not on the devastating
                              are already talking of a possible return to the sort of     2010 scale but maybe enough to trim yields and
   maize crop does            maize prices markets grew used to over the last decade      current (already much lower than last year) wheat crop
                              or two – perhaps 25% cheaper than present levels!           forecasts. China (the world largest wheat producer
   come through as               But will there be surprises on the demand side of        and consumer) also has some dyness issues while
                              the ledger too? Will China, for example, reveal a far       Argentine wheat farmers are cutting back sowings due
planned). However,            larger than expected feed raw material deficit as many      to disappointing returns and government interference
                              analysts have been forecasting, mopping up some of          in their export market. Canada has sown 11% more,
world wheat stocks            these extra supplies? Will cheaper maize prices also        Australia maybe 4-5% less wheat but both might have
                              stir demand from other importers large and small?           better quality if they avoid last year’s untimely rains –
      will decline by         And just how much maize will be fed to livestock or         which would be good news for millers..
                              used for ethanol fuel within the USA itself? In these          Overall, if pundits like the US Agriculture
about 9m tonnes to            uncertain economic times, opinions differ on these          Department are right, 2012/13 may well shape up as
                              factors too, especially on the feeding prospects.           a much better supplied year for maize and soyabeans
                       188m      Wheat output, in contrast, is expected to drop next      and an adequate one for wheat. That will certainly
                              season by 17m tonnes on weather-reduced planted/            offer less justification for hiking feed costs – or even
                              harvested acreage. But with stocks of 197m tonnes to        keeping them as high as they are now.
                              carry in from 2011/12 - and wheat feeding to livestock         Taking into account the improving supply forecasts,
                              likely to decline too (as consumers switch back to          the US grain markets have been dropping since our
                              maize) - does a crop fall of this size really matter that   last review and have recently traded close to the
                              much in the grand scheme of things?
                                 Further forward in 2012/13 consumers are
                              also promised perhaps 35m tonnes more
                              soyabean production after this season’s 19m
                              tonne drop, the bulk coming from Latin America
                              where drought robbed farmers of a similar
                              amount this year. Will that increase (if it comes
                              off), mean lower soya costs eventually, as distant
                              futures markets suggest? Or will the world’s
                              mega-buyer, China, step in on a larger scale
                              in this market too, keeping soya prices frisky?
                              Either way, soya costs will be freer to stay firm

34 | may - June 2012                                                                                      Grain  &feed millinG technoloGy

  lows of last December. Although                                                                                                  is one of uncertainty, nervousness and –
  wheat supplies are seen edging                                                                                                   despite the overall bias toward depressed
  down (rather than up like maize and                                                                                              raw material markets – a continuing outlook
  soyabeans) next season, Chicago                                                                                                  for price volatility across the grain and feed
  wheat futures have actually seen                                                                                                 sector.
  the biggest dip, trading close to
  two year lows (with export prices for US hard
  wheats already down to those levels). Given
                                                             while this has been going on, some better supplied
                                                             member states (notably the UK) have been able
                                                                                                                             Main commodity highlights since
  the ongoing massive world wheat supply, this               to sell feed wheat to the USA. This underlines                  our last review
  might seem a long overdue reaction with some               the global nature of the 21st Century commodity
  distance yet to go.                                        market, albeit with some help from rock-bottom                  Wheat supplies not quite so
     Cheaper wheat has been hastened by a                    ocean freight costs earlier in the year.
  reversal in maize prices as traders start to believe          The past couple of months have also seen a
                                                                                                                             flush after all?
  that a massive, record US crop of the latter grain         marked increase in pessimism over the Euro-                        The past season saw the biggest world wheat
  really is possible, given expanded sowing plans,           zone’s debt crisis and its potential to spread                  crop ever as farmers responded to strong
  early planting and currently ideal weather. As             contagion to broader global markets. As we go to                prices with larger sowings (+1.5%) and yields
  pointed our in earlier reviews, tight old crop             press the burning issue has shifted from if to when             recovered from the series of weather events
  markets have forced US maize prices to trade               Greece might be forced out of the EZ, to the                    that slashed output around the globe in 2010.
  for many months at highly unusual premiums                 impact on Italian, Spanish and Portuguese debt,                 Most of that crop recovery was in the former
  to wheat (even hard red winter wheat with its              Spanish bank solvency, global economic activity                 Soviet Union although India the EU, Canada,
  higher nutritional value). This phenomenon has             etc etc. Along with signs of faltering Chinese                  Australia, China and several smaller producers
  sustained even the more abundantly supplied                growth and wavering US economic data, this                      grew larger crops too, offset only partially by a
  soft wheat markets at prices that would normally           has been a tremendous drag on all the markets                   few declines in countries like Argentina and Iran.
  be considered out of synch with the loose                  – stocks, financials, energy - even the supposedly              Consumption also expanded to record high
  fundamentals.                                              more ‘fire-proof’ agricultural commodities with                 levels, mainly because so much more wheat
     The notable exception to the latter has been            their assumed solid demand as food staples.                     was used in animal feeds to replace tight and
  Western Europe, where last year’s (and likely                 At this stage it is hard to divine which is having           expensive maize – in Europe, the USA, Asia,
  this year’s too) weather-reduced crop and lack             – or will have - the greater impact on grain and                China, the CIS and others. Just how much
  of supplies from the Black Sea countries has               feed markets – the potential for lost physical                  more has been hotly debated over the past
  kept wheat prices up on their own merits and               demand for commodities, the decline in liquidity                year but it does now seem the feed total was
  above the world market (led by the US, Canada,             of banks and hedge funds who speculated in                      much larger than originally thought. In its latest
  Argentina, Australia). Indeed in some of the               agric futures from 2008/09 onward and have lost                 appraisal, the USDA estimates feeding reached
  EU northern regions, especially Germany, feed              money on reversals and their other numerous                     146.7m tonnes – a rise of 31.3m or 5%. That’s
  wheat has been scare enough to sell at higher              bad bets, or the sheer negativity of ’sentiment.’               almost 10m tonnes more than forecast in April
  prices than milling wheat. Paradoxically, even             Whichever combination of these, the picture                     and results in total wheat demand matching

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   Grain                                                                                                                                                                21.05.12
                                                                                                                                                            may - June 2012 | 35 08:58
production. World carryover stocks this June 30        of a reversal to higher levels as weather shifts        • To what extent will EU winter wheat crops
will not increase by 12.6m tonnes as expected          begin the question some of the more liberal               affected by the Jan/Feb freeze and the March
earlier but remain about the same as last year.        crop estimates. Chief areas of concern are Russia         drought recover amid recent plentiful rain?
Yet at 197m tonnes, these are still huge by any        and Ukraine – possible drought losses on top            • Summer weather in the Northern Hemisphere
measurement, equal to 28.4% of consumption             of quite severe winterkill (mainly in Ukraine),           where most of the world’s wheat is grown –
or almost 15 weeks’ supplies.                          the EU – worse than expected winterkill and               yields nearly always affect crop size more than
   The USDA has recently released its first            an earlier drought, the effect of which might             shifts in sown acreage.
take on 2012/13 world grain balances and they          be partly reversed by a ‘Monsoon’ spring - and          • A big US crop with plenty of hard red winter
make interesting reading. As other analysts like       lastly the US southern/central Plains where the           variety and improving spring wheat prospects
                                                                                           Automotive               Building &                  Chemical              Crea
the International Grains Council have been             top might be shaved off hard red winter yields
                                                                                             Industry            will help hold down breadwheat prices globally.
                                                                                                                  Construction                   Industry             Indu
forecasting, the USDA expects 2012 wheat               by a spell of hot dry weather.                          • How far will wheat consumption in feeds
output to decline, by about 2.5% or 17m tonnes            At this stage, potential losses to the 678m world      decline world-wide if the US, other major
                                                                         crop scenario are not necessarily       producers produce bumper maize crops?.
                                                                         large – maybe 5m or 10m tonnes        • India is likely to export far more wheat than
                                                                         – but enough to constrain the           expected earlier in the year, competition for
                                                                         complacency that was emerging           more traditional exporters and helping to fill
                                                                         about 2012/13 supplies. The             some of the ‘Black Sea’ supply gap.
                                                                         reaction from markets has been        • Progress of sowings in key quality bread wheat
                                                                         exaggerated partly by the fact that     supplier Australia and pre-harvest weather
                                                                         the bellwether Chicago wheat            there – will it improve after after two years
                                                                         futures contract had been heavily       of rain-damaged crops?
                                                                         sold by speculators who, suddenly     • The price of maize – it has been supporting
                                                                         realising their exposure to weather     wheat in the face of burdensome stocks for
                                                                         shifts, greater than expected old       over a year.
                                                                         crop demand or rallies in maize
                                                          and soya, rushed to cover some of their ‘short’
                                                          position. This has recently recouped some of
                                                                                                               Maize leads coarse grain
                                                          the losses in US prices and pushed European          comeback–
                                                          prices a little higher too. A weak euro has also
                                                          played in to firmer EU milling wheat prices but      but the crop isn’t grown yet
                                                          that could reverse if the Euro-zone does get            The USDA’s first 2012/13 supply/demand
                                                          its act together.                                    forecasts dealt a body blow to maize bulls,
                                                              Wheat is still plentiful as witnessed by the     predicting the US crop would rocket by 62m
                                                          competition for ‘non-routine’ import orders          tonnes to a new record 376m. Even with a
                                                          from the big Middle East buyers and other            23m tonne jump in US domestic use (mainly in
                                                          milling wheat consumers. Not only are further        the feed sector) and a 4.5m tonne increase in
                                                          countries like Canada and the US competing           exports, that would still raise carryover stocks
                                                          for Arab business; so are distant suppliers like     to more than double this season’s tight ending
to some 678m. This assumes a 22m tonne                 Argentina and Australia, able to take advantage         level at about 48m tones. The US maize crop
reversal for Russia, Ukraine and Kazkhstan             of still unusually low ocean freight rates. Even the    – which has gone in early on a massive 96m
combined and declines of 5.4m tonnes for the           former Soviet countries, supposedly concerned           acres – possibly more – still needs to be proved.
EU, 3.5m for Australia, 2m for Argentina, offset       about approaching crop setbacks and ‘over-selling’      Weather has been mostly benign so far. As we go
only partly by a 6.7m increase for the USA, plus       their remaining 2011 supplies, seem to be keen to       to press, there are some concerns about possible
4.1m for India, 2.1m for China and 1.74m more          remain in the contest for ‘opportunity’ custom,         hotter drier forecasts as crops approach early
for Canada.                                            rather than end up with too much old crop stock         pollination which works better under cooler,
    Global consumption of wheat is expected to         at harvest time. On top of that, India has record       damper conditions but such talk is par for the
fall back too next season, by about 8m tonnes, as      stocks – four times and more its target level for       course at this time of the year. World corn
various countries use more maize (assuming the         state reserves. With yet another bumper harvest         supplies will also be boosted by bigger crops
big maize crop does come through as planned).          on the way, it could easily add 10m tonnes or           in Argentina (+3.5m tonnes), Canada (+1.9m),
However, world wheat stocks will decline by            much more to the global export mix, without             former Soviet countries (+1.5m), South Africa
about 9m tonnes to 188m.                               jeopardising its own food security/inflation            (+1.5m) and China (+1.9m). In total, world corn
    Taking these preliminary figures at face           containment plans.                                      output could increase by 75m tonnes, putting it
value, there is nothing overtly bullish for prices.       Despite this apparent plenty, wheat prices will      about 25m tonnes ahead of world consumption
Exporters like the USA, Australia, Canada, India –     probably not drop much more until the Northern          (despite a 54m tonne increase in the latter).
even Russia – would still have relatively big crops.   Hemisphere harvest picture clears – for both               What issues might interfere with this prognosis
Some exporters – chiefly the US, Australia, India      wheat and maize. Until the US and other big             for ample supplies and, logically, lower corn costs?
and the former Soviets also carry in comfortable       suppliers prove their forecast large corn crops,        Apart from US and European weather in the
or in some cases (India and the US) larger than        the risk remains that wheat could again be in           coming summer months, we need to keep an
normal stocks.                                         more demand than usual for the feed industry.           eye on demand developments. After the USA,
    These early pointers to ongoing adequacy of                                                                the main area of demand growth for maize in
supply combined with weakening maize prices
(maize strength has been the main support for
                                                       KEY FACTORS IN THE MONTHS                               the coming year will be China, seen adding 12m
                                                                                                               tonnes to its consumption which at 200m tonnes
wheat this season) and negative events in the          AHEAD                                                   would be 7m tonnes ahead of local output.
world economy to drive down wheat prices                                                                       China has already emerged as the main growth
to their lowest levels of the year during May.         • How far will ‘Black Sea’ regional wheat crops         factor in 2011/12 demand, importing 5m tonnes
However, as we go to press that trend is at risk         decline this summer?                                  compared with less than 1m in 2010/11 and very

36 | may - June 2012                                                                                                    Grain  &feed millinG technoloGy
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little in previous years. Some sources put its feed    season. With slightly higher rye crops and oats        this has helped restrain soya prices on the world
grain deficit as high as 20m tonnes but that is        output more or less unchanged, global coarse           market, it is not good news for consumers who
probably far too high, given China’s ability to        grain supplies will be able to increase their share    want to see buoyant demand for meat products
use quite a lot of its own lower grade wheat           of world cereal feed consumption to about 84%,         and feedstuffs. Another factor is the chronically
crops in animal feeds. (It has already used about      cutting wheat use in this sector by about 14m          weak euro, robbing consumers of any benefit
10m tonnes more wheat this season, avoiding            tonnes.                                                when dollar prices for soya products dip.
the need to import the 10m tonnes of maize                                                                       Tightening Latin American soya supply puts
some US observers predicted a few months ago).
Still, China’s regular purchasing forays on world
                                                       KEY FACTORS IN THE MONTHS                              increasing onus on the US to produce a decent
                                                                                                              crop this summer. Current estimates suggests
markets will probably offer some support to US         AHEAD                                                  it has sown more than the USDA predicted in
and world maize prices going forward.                                                                         March and early planting raises the prospect of
    Outside of China, the US and the big South         • Just how big will the US maize crop be this          good yields. However, the US crop will only fiull
American producing countries, demand for                 year – big enough to double carryover stocks         a small part of the gap left by disappointing South
maize is expected to bounce back in a number             and maybe cut another 25% off international          American crops. This will show in the market
of moderate/smaller importing countries                  maize prices?                                        price later in the season when Lat-Am crops
in response to larger supplies and cheaper             • Final size of Latin American crops                   start to run out and import demand focuses
prices (perhaps not as low as the $3-4/bushel          • How much corn will West Europe & the                 more heavily on the US crop around third or
consumers got used to for most of the last ten           former Soviet countries sow on failed winter         fourth quarter 2012. Soon after that, markets
years but still a lot cheaper than in the past           wheat lands?                                         will also be closely watching what the South
season). The exception may be Mexico, a big US         • Possibly bigger than expected Chinese maize/         Americans will sow in the autumn. A good soya
customer, which expects a better domestic crop.          feedgrain import requirements – currently            price will be needed to encourage maximum
    Overall, the USDA expects this scenario to           seen anywhere between six and 20 million             acreage and much better weather than the past
drive down the US seasonal average maize price           tonnes – enough to change the direction of
to $4.20/$5 per bushel (with a mean of $4.60)            US/European and international prices.
compared with the past season’s $5.95/6.25             • Will global economic recession curb meat/                  Table 1: First 2012/13 balance = USDA
($6.10). The futures markets meanwhile point to          consumption in some developing countries, cut              Main producers (000 tonnes)
a drop from the current $6.35 to about $5.50 in          cap feed grain demand and help hold down
                                                                                                                                     2010/11      2011/12     2012/13
a year’s time. One or two of our US trade sources        grain and oilseed costs?
are far bolder in predicting cheap maize prices        • We continue to hear reports that speculators
back in the $4/bu area if these big supply forecasts     are taking money out of commodities –                            China        115.2       117.9         120
come to pass. That would not be impossible but           less fervent investment by this sector has                          EU        135.7       137.4         132
it would require wheat prices to backtrack too           contributed to lower grain and feed raw                            FSU         81.1       114.4         97.8
and both of these major grains would need a              material costs in recent months.                               Australia       27.9        29.5         26.0
very favourable summer.                                                                                                  Canada         23.2        25.3          27
    World barley production is also seen edging
ahead in 2012/13, to 135.4m from the past
                                                       Oilmeals                                                        Argentina
                                                                                                                WORLD TOTAL
season’s 133.7m. The increase is mainly in Europe         World oilseed crop estimates have shrunk              World end stocks       196.7       197.0        188.1
and would have been significantly higher if not        by another 8m tonnes since our last review to
for the severe winterkill suffered across the EU       around 237m – a big drop from the previous
earlier in the year and the subsequent stress from     season’s 265m tonnes. Most of the latest decline is    year’s to top up supplies in the spring of 2013. In
droughts. As the earlier harvested crop, barley        in soyabean production in South America where          the meantime, hopes of supplementing supplies
                                                                     drought and heatwave damage              rest on the East Europeans and the former
                                                                     earlier in the year turned out much      Soviet countries pulling off better sunflowerseed
                                                                     worse than expected. Overall,            crops and Canada producing a possible record
                                                                     soyabean output is expected to           rapeseed crop. However, even if these come
                                                                     drop by the equivalent of about 22m      to pass, world oilseed output is likely to fall well
                                                                     tonnes of soya meal although the         short of demand into 2013, drawing down stocks
                                                                     effect will be mitigated considerably    and keeping a fairly firm undertone under costs
                                                                     by crushers drawing down relatively      of protein meals.
                                                                     large carryover stocks from the
                                                                     previous crop. Despite this tightening
                                                                     of supplies, US soya meal prices have
                                                                                                              KEY FACTORS IN THE MONTHS
                                                                     not risen much on domestic markets       AHEAD
                                                                     and soyabeans, after a brief rally to
                                                                     about $15/bushel in late April, have     • How much land will the US plant to soyabeans
                                                                     actually dropped to around $13.50          this spring – 75m, 76m acres or more?
                                                                     recently. This is a largely technical      Consumers will have no trouble disposing of
                                                                     move, caused by speculators having         a bigger crop.
                                                                     overbought the futures markets           • As they continue to shrink, how small will South
                                                                     and leaving themselves exposed             America’s soyabean crops end up?
has had less time than wheat to recover amid the       to ‘profit-taking’ corrections. It also reflects the   • Chinese consumption and timing of imports
recent welcome return to wet weather but will          highly negative sentiment on global financial            will drive global protein demand
probably have been stabilised at least.                markets in the wake of the Euro-zone crisis            • EU/CIS sunflowerseed plantings – to what
   World barley consumption is seen rising slightly,   which many pundits think will spill over into            extent might these start to compensate for
putting it just ahead of production and resulting      the global economy, causing weak demand for              disappointing rapeseed crops and global soya
in stocks staying fairly tight through the coming      commodities linked to meat production. While             shortfalls in the meal sector?

38 | may - June 2012                                                                                                   Grain  &feed millinG technoloGy
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Description: MARKET dynamics are swinging firmly toward 2012 crop and demand prospects - and what a mixed bag the preliminary estimates present!