Grain Supplies Keep Getting Tighter

Includes: CORN, DBA, JJG, MOO
by: Greyson S. Colvin

The USDA updated the U.S. and World balance sheet estimates for major agricultural commodities in the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates [WASDE] report on Wednesday. January’s report is typically one of the most anticipated and it was not a letdown.

U.S. grain supplies were substantially reduced for the 2010/11 marketing year due to lower grain production estimates and higher use. A late harvest in the U.S. led the USDA to reduce U.S corn yield estimates to152.8 bushels per acres from 154.3 bushels. Grain supplies are now critically tight and discussions may turn to rationing.


Bullish news for corn continues into 2011 as the 2010/11 U.S. corn production was decreased by 93 million bushels to 12,447 million bushels due to lower corn yields across the country. Ethanol and industrial use was both increased by 100 million bushels, partially offset by a 100 million reduction in feed and residual.

Ending corn stocks for 2010/11 will be the lowest since 1995/96 at 745 million bushels and leaves the ending stocks to use ratio at 5.5%. The USDA season-average farm price for corn is estimated at $4.90 to $5.70 per bushel, a midpoint increase of 10 cents and the highest season-average ever.

World corn production was also lowered to 816 million tons from December’s forecast of 820.7 million tons, due to the decrease in U.S. production and reduced yield prospect for Argentina. Global corn ending stocks were reduced by 3 million tons to 127 million tons.

The USDA also reported the December 1 Quarterly Stocks at 10.039 billion bushels, which was substantially lower than analyst estimates of 10.067 billion bushels. This is the smallest first quarter stocks number in four years and the largest first quarter use as a percentage of the crop since 1995.


The USDA also lowered production estimates for soybeans to 3.329 billion bushels, from 3.375 billion, due to a 0.4 bushel per acre reduction in yield and a 0.2 million acres reduction in harvested acres.

Ending stocks for soybeans in 2010/11 were lowered to 140 million bushels, from 165 million bushels in December. The USDA season-average farm price for soybeans was narrowed to $11.20 to $12.20 from $10.70 to $12.20.

Global soybean production was reduced by 2.3 million tons to 255.5 million tons. Production estimates in Argentina were lowered due to an expected decrease in yields, partially offset by an increase in production in Paraguay.

Quarterly stocks for soybeans were reported at 2.277 billion bushels, well below estimates and down 2.7% year over year. This is the second largest use as a percentage of crop, primarily driven by strong Chinese demand.


U.S. 2010/11 wheat production numbers were unchanged but ending stocks were lowered by 40 million bushels to 818 million bushels. The decrease was due to a 50 million bushel increase in exports, offset by a 10 million bushels reduction in feed. The USDA season-average farm price for wheat is estimated at $5.50 to $5.80, up from last month’s estimate of $5.30 to $5.70.

Total world wheat production was estimated at 645.82 million bushels, down from December’s estimate of 646.51 million bushels. The decrease was due to heavy floods in Australia and difficult production in Kazakhstan, partially offset by increased production in Argentina and Brazil.

The USDA estimated that winter-wheat planting was 40.99 million acres, a 9.8% increase from the prior year, which was the smallest planted area since 1913.

December quarterly ending stocks for wheat were reported at 1.927 billion bushels, up 8% from last year. This is the largest second-quarter stocks estimate since the late 1980s.


Grain stocks continue to become tighter as every day passes. There is currently less than a three week supply of corn available. Corn prices above $6.00 will pressure food prices and supply rationing.

All eyes will now be turned to U.S. planting estimates for this spring. We expect that farmers will shift more acres to corn from soybeans to capitalize on the high prices. Analysts expect around 90 million acres of corn to be planted in 2011, with some estimates reaching as high as 93 million acres, compared to 2010’s planting of 88.222 million acres.

Pay attention to the grain market in 2011 as it could be an exciting year!

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.