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Soymeal prices - has their correction gone far enough?

Soymeal was one of the top performers among commodities in 2012, outperforming even wheat with a price rise of 36%.

The jump reflected the quest by livestock feeders for alternatives to corn and, in particular, the high protein distillers' grains produced as a byproduct of making ethanol from the grain.

Corn use in making US ethanol is seen falling 11.2% to 4.5bn bushels by the US Department of Agriculture, implying a proportionate drop in output of distillers' grains.

Furthermore, on export markets, supplies from Argentina and Brazil, the top two shipping countries, were cut by a drought-hit soybean harvest.

Leading commentators give their view on how soymeal prices will fare from here.

Macquarie

"Early-season US Department of Agriculture soymeal export sales pace were running way in excess of the rate of sales in a normal year.

"To hit the USDA target, sales needs to fall dramatically. This drop in sales pace is probable, though, as improved production in South America in the 2012-13 season will see more competition on the soymeal market.

"The problem will be ensuring that US exports in the second half of the season remain close to zero.

"Our biggest concern is that we believe the USDA are being too optimistic with regard to the expected drop in soymeal consumption in the US, especially since we have seen a significant correction in the flat price of soymeal."

Rabobank

"Key to our bearish Chicago soymeal price forecast is our expectation for demand growth to slow in 2013, and a rebound in soybean production to increase supplies.

Rabobank soymeal price forecasts

Q1 2013: $450 a short ton

Q2 2013: $425 a short ton

Q3 2013: $375 a short ton

Q4 2013: $350 a short ton

Forecast for quarter-average price, Chicago front futures contract

"Hog and poultry producers have seen their margins squeezed in 2012, which will likely result in a contraction in animal numbers and a slowdown in global feed demand for soymeal. We forecast global soymeal demand growth will be less than 2% in 2012-13, reaching 178.9m tonnes.

"As soymeal demand slows, we expect Chicago soymeal prices to underperform relative to soybeans and soyoil in 2013. We expect crush margins to contract in 2013 and oil share to rebound.

"We expect fundamentals to diverge as soymeal demand growth slows and US soyoil demand continues to grow.

"Furthermore, China's strong soybean import demand is likely to limit Chicago soybean price downside, which will result in contracting crush margins. "

Societe Generale

"We see the strong correlation between soybeans and soymeal continuing in the near-term.

"As problems with the US soybean crop became more apparent, especially following the production losses in South America, demand for soybean meal increased alongside soybeans as end-users scrambled for supplies.

"While the US crush has begun at a strong pace, US soymeal export sales have been more muted.

"We remain wary of meal prices and expect a further correction in this product."

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