The US appears set for more of the cold and wet weather
which hampered US crops more than investors had thought, leaving farmers behind
in corn plantings by an area bigger than Belgium, with conditions hurting
winter wheat further too.
US growers had sown 19% of corn as of Sunday, less than the
21% that investors had expected, US Department of Agriculture data showed.
It was also well behind the average of 28% by now, a lag
equivalent in area terms to more than 8m acres, if better than the 5% achieved
a year ago, during a particularly slow planting season.
The lag was attributed largelys to excessive rains and
chilly temperatures in many major producing states, including Iowa, the top
grower, where "wet conditions continued to slow down fieldwork", USDA scouts
"Cool soil temperatures remain a concern for farmers planting
in the northern part of the state," they added.
Iowa farmers had planted 15% of their crop, compared with
one-third typically by now.
And there are expectations of further poor weather too come,
with Gail Martell at Martell Crop Projections Corn forecasting that "planting
will stall from wet field conditions and a colder forecast this week.
Already "heavy rainfall" has spread into major Corn Belt producing
states such as Illinois and Indiana.
And rains are expected "to linger" in the Midwest, Ms
The conditions are expected to offer support to corn prices,
with Ben Bradbury at Benson Quinn Commodities saying that "with planting pace
coming in below expectations and the less than ideal weather forecast this week,
I'd expect there will be support underneath the market".
Richard Feltes, at RJ O'Brien, termed the data "mildly
supportive" for prices, a description applied too to wheat futures, after the
USDA revealed a further drop, by 1 point to 34%, in the proportion of US winter
wheat seedlings rated "good" or "excellent".
Benson Quinn Commodities said that the data would "offer
support" to futures in Kansas City-traded hard red winter wheat, the type grown
in the southern Plains, which was at the centre of the deterioration.
The crop in Kansas, the top US wheat producing state, was
rated 21% good or excellent, down 3 points week on week, undermined by
inadequate rainfall, with "only limited amounts of moisture recorded in western
drought counties", USDA scouts said.
In Oklahoma, where the proportion of winter wheat dropped 2
points to a meagre 9%, scouts noted that "severe weather moved through the
state last weekend", bringing "the first deadly tornado of the year", but
minimal rain to refresh drought-hit crops.
Indeed, "any moisture received was carried away by the high
winds," the USDA said.
"Drought conditions continued to worsen, especially in the north
western portion of the state."
'Continued to limit
For corn, sowings in Minnesota, one of the top five
producing states, were particularly behind, at 4% complete compared with an
average of 30%, slowed by "wet conditions" which "continued to limit fieldwork",
limiting it to only 1.7 days last week, USDA scouts said.
In Indiana, another of the big five, sowings were 8%
finished, below an average of 26% by now.
Plantings of many other crops, including cotton were behind
too, and the USDA highlighted particularly volatile weather in Texas, the top
producing state, where sowings were 15% done, 3 points below average.
"Freezing temperatures and hail affected much of the state
last week, reaching from the Panhandle all the way to South Texas.
"Later in the week, hot temperatures and high winds
increased the potential of wildfires."
Such conditions have already written off some crop, with the
USDA noting that "some cotton replanting was active in areas of the Upper Coast that
received significant frost and hail damage".
In spring wheat, US sowings were, at 30% finished, 12 points behind
the average, also hurt by the poor conditions in Minnesota.