There was some upbeat news for financial markets around on Monday, with a monthly Chinese manufacturing index coming in firm.
The HSBC measure of Chinese factory activity came in at 51.2, ahead of forecasts at 50.9 and August's figure of 50.1. Anything above 50.0 signals growth.
That offset a little of the concern abroad in financial markets that the Federal Reserve's decision to delay tapering of emergency economic support, while a positive to many assets, including agricultural commodities, may not be quite the huge support it initially appeared.
For one thing, ideas have grown that the Fed may only delay the withdrawal by a month.
The result was a broadly negative start for risk assets, although Shanghai shares did perform strongly, adding 1.3%. (After a long, holiday weekend this was their first opportunity to react to the Federal Reserve's decision.)
Many other Asian stock markets struggled, as did London copper, which eased 0.8%, with Brent crude showing small losses, falling below $109 a barrel.
And that mood was pretty well representative of sentiment among agricultural commodity investors too, although one crop did manage, small, gains.
That was down to an extra boost from China.
Chinese import upgrade
China's CNGOIC crop bureau raised by 1.0m tonnes, to 7.5m tonnes, its forecast for the country's wheat imports in 2013-14.
The forecast was below some figures which already been circulated from other commentators, including a 9.5m-tonne number from the US Department of Agriculture.
Nonetheless, with Chinese data often viewed as conservative on imports (if generous on production), the upgrade gave some support to ideas that the country needs a stack of foreign wheat to fill a void created by a low-quality domestic harvest, hit by harvest rains.
And the CNGOIC also confirmed the extent of Chinese wheat purchases already in 2013-14, 3.7m tonnes from the US, 2.2m tonnes from Australia and 220,000 tonnes from France.
(Last month, Chinese wheat imports reached 421,000 tonnes, up from 311,000 tonnes in July and 252,000 tonnes in August 2012, customs data show.)
This is against a backdrop of concerns about the Russian crop, with late rains seen dogging the Siberian harvest, which had been seen as a source of hope for upping the depressed proportion of high-grade wheat in the national harvest.
"Talk that the quality of Russian wheat production continues to come in subpar on a percentage basis compared to an average year also merits some attention," Benson Quinn Commodities said.
Luke Mathews flagged talk of "quality issues in Russia and Kazakhstan", although Kazakhstan separately on Monday raised its forecast for its overall grains harvest, mainly wheat, by 1.2m tonnes to 18.5m tonnes.
The forecast for exports was lifted to 9.5m tonnes, from 7m-8m tonnes.
Rains in central Russia are slowing the seeding of winter wheat for 2014 harvest too, with Agritel noting that "the soil is particularly wet, which is hampering sowings.
"The window of opportunity for sowing is up to October 10, after which the risk of frost is too high."
Indeed, Ukraine-based crop blogger Mike Lee Tweeted that he was "hearing reports from Russia that its wet, very wet and both the harvest and planting is now very delayed".
Sure, such problems are not worldwide, with rains in the US southern Plains improving hopes for winter wheat sowings there.
Still, there was enough to helped wheat futures for December add 0.2% to $6.47 ¼ a bushel in Chicago as of 09:30 UK time (03:30 Chicago time).
On another dynamic too, while prospects are improving for wheat in Australia, which is receiving rainfall, they are not in Argentina, where MDA said that "mainly-dry weather this week will maintain dryness concerns in western areas".
There is, too, plenty of scope for hedge funds to close short positions in Chicago wheat futures and options, with their net short position back above 50,000 lots, according to regulatory data late on Friday.
Still, there is one technical barrier that may slow wheat's progress, and that is its price relationship to corn, with its premium now returning close to $2 a bushel.
Corn, indeed, found progress harder to find on Monday, against a backdrop of drier weather in the US Midwest, speaking of quicker harvesting and so greater pressure on values from the spike in supplies.
December corn dropped 0.3% to $4.49 ½ a bushel, some 4 cents from the contract's lowest in three years.
US weather outlook
While the weekend did bring rain to the southern Corn Belt, the forecast "looks pretty dry over the next five days over most of the Midwest and the central and Lower Plains", WxRisk.com said.
"There will still be pretty good rains over the south eastern states and along the Gulf coast," but these areas already have much of their harvest done.
MDA said that "dry weather is expected through Wednesday.
"Showers will favour far western areas on Thursday and Friday," with amounts of 0.25-1.0 inches, and 25% coverage, the weather service said.
'Holding up better than expected'
The condition of the US crop has stabilised too, with expectations that USDA data later on Monday will show the proportion rated "good" or "excellent" staying at 53%, with harvest advancing to 10-15% complete.
And, with US harvest now stepping up for soybeans too, they succumbed to much the same pressures as corn, if retaining of course ideas of a far tighter balance sheet.
"The US soybean harvest has commenced and the early yield results seem to be holding up better than expected," CBA's Luke Mathews said.
"Over the next few weeks the oilseed market will be torn between mounting US harvest pressure, changing production estimates and strong export sales results."
In fact, on actual US soybean exports, Chinese customs data showed a slump in the top soybean-importing country's imports of American supplies in August, with the total slumping 99.7% to 1,390 tonnes.
That was well behind the 5.1m tonnes imported from Brazil, up 82% year on year, and the 9.5% rise to 831,634 tonnes in purchases from Argentina.
Of course, a low figure on imports from the US was to be expected, given the paucity of supplies left over from last year's drought-hit harvest.
Still, soybeans for November eased 0.3% to $13.11 ½ a bushel.
Elsewhere in the oilseeds complex, palm oil for December actually bucked its losing trend, adding 0.6% to 2,310 ringgit a tonne in Kuala Lumpur, although only after hitting a one-month low of 2,279 ringgit a tonne earlier, which sparked bargain hunting.
This revival came despite a caution from influential analyst Dorab Mistry at the weekend that prices looked unlikely to escape their 2,200-2,400 ringgit a tonne trading range for now, although there was a risk of a drop to 2,000 ringgit a tonne early in 2014.
Palm oil could be depressed by a fall in crude prices and by the prospect of a strong South American oilseeds crop, he said.