US officials calmed jitters over an unusually slow start to soybean
exports in 2013-14, saying trade would pick up as harvest progressed, even as
they cautioned over the potential for the onset of rains to bolster yields.
The US in the week to September 9, the first full week of
2013-14, exported just 2.97m bushels, official measures of cargo inspections showed,
a figure which fell short of forecasts.
Broker CHS Hedging, terming the figure "meagre" and "disappointing",
said that exports were "well below the 27.1m bushels needed to stay on pace
with the USDA's demand projection".
US soybean exports for the first nine days of the season, at
4.82m bushels, are down 79% year on year.
'Should start slowly'
US soybean export prospects are being viewed with particular
interest given that the USDA has forecast them being supported by a sharp jump,
of 9.5m tonnes to a record 69.0m tonnes, in buy-ins by China, the biggest
Many investors believe that figure is overoptimistic.
However, the USDA said that a weak start to exports for
2013-14 was to be expected given the lingering dent to US supplies from last
year's drought-affected crop, and delays to this year's harvest as a knock-on
effect of a difficult spring sowing period.
"Soybean shipments for September should start slowly, due to
low beginning stocks and expectations for a later-than-usual harvest," USDA
Indeed, they underlined trade prospects, saying that "US
export sales of new-crop soybeans are at an all-time high for early September, with
particularly strong sales to China".
Nonetheless, the officials maintained a cautious stance on
US soybean production prospects, highlighting the dry weather which prompted
the USDA to cut by 1.4 bushels per acre, to 41.2 bushels per acre, its forecast
for the national yield this year.
Drought, "appears to be gradually spreading eastward" after
hitting "a major part of the western Corn Belt" over the summer, the USDA said,
noting the third driest August on record in Illinois, the second-ranked soybean
"A Midwestern heat wave over the second half of the month
only accelerated the loss of soil moisture.
"Such conditions were very untimely for the soybean crop as most
were in a critical stage of pod development."
'Time is running out'
And while meteorologists have forecast a sharp recovery in Midwest
rains, the USDA officials cautioned that "time is running out for any rains
this month to provide a late boost to yields, like they did last year.
"Many Midwestern soybeans are getting too mature for further
bean development given that 10-25% of them are already yellowing."
In fact, separate USDA data overnight showed 26% of US
soybeans at the stage of dropping leaves, although this is nine points lower than
the average by now.
The data also showed the proportion of the US crop rated "good"
or "excellent" falling by 2 points to 50%, reflecting declines in crops in Michigan,
Minnesota, Missouri and, in particular, Ohio, with a five-point decline.
Most of the state remained "in dry conditions" last week,
USDA scouts in Ohio said.
"Crop conditions all declined slightly. But farmers are
still happy with their crops and seem optimistic about the coming harvest."