The condition of US winter wheat deteriorated further,
reports from major growing states revealed, as investors await a delayed first
national rating of 2014, with early data showing a slow start to corn sowings
In Oklahoma, the proportion of the crop rated "good" or "excellent"
dropped by two points to 15% in the week to Sunday, affected by drought which
has spread to 95% of the state, the US Department of Agriculture said.
"Winter wheat progress continued to be negatively impacted
by the prolonged drought and exceedingly windy conditions," USDA scouts said.
"Substantial rain is needed across the entire state,
especially in the Panhandle, for winter wheat development."
In Kansas, the top US wheat-growing state, of which 99% is
in drought, the proportion of the crop rated "good" or "excellent" fell by
three points to 32% in the week to Sunday.
"South west Kansas continued to suffer through drought
conditions, including days of high winds," US Department of Agriculture scouts
The decline in the rating took it below that last season for
the first time this year.
As of early April 2013, the crop in Kansas, then recovering
from the national drought the year before, was rated 31%.
The data come as investors are awaiting the USDA's first
national winter wheat condition rating of 2014, due after markets close on
Tuesday, with the data delayed from Monday for an unspecified reason.
Although ratings in Midwest soft red winter wheat states are
expected to be beat those from southern Plains hard red winter wheat-growing states
such as Kansas and Oklahoma, the national figure is expected at a relatively
weak 35-40% rated good or excellent.
That would well below the 62% in late November as seedlings
"A 20 percentage-point drop would the biggest during winter
dormancy since 2009," US Commodities said.
USDA 'too optimistic'
The lowly ratings have already stoked concerns about this
"The marginal production increase envisaged by the USDA for
all wheat types combined in 2014-15 could prove to be too optimistic,"
And there are only meagre hopes of rains to boost soil
"The best opportunity for moisture in the southern plains
remains a window from April 11-13," Brian Henry at Benson Quinn Commodities
said, but noted that updated weather models had "reduced some potential totals".
He added: "Forecasts hint at a better precipitation profile
for least eastern hard red winter wheat growing regions, but it's slow to
develop, if it develops at all."
Corn sowings outlook
Meanwhile, UDSA state data show corn planting has begun at a
slow pace thanks to weather setbacks, although this is down to cool and rainy weather
in early-starting states, such as Mississippi, where last week enabled only 1.5
days of fieldwork.
Mississippi growers had planted 41% of their corn as of
Sunday, compared with an average of 63% by now, while in Arkansas, farmers had
sown 25% of their crop, behind an average of 44% by then.
Corn planting progress, change on year ago and (on five-year average)
Arkansas: 25%, unchanged, (-19 points)
Georgia: 59%, +14 points, (-2 points)
Louisiana: 91%, -6 points, (-1 point)
Mississippi: 41%, -5 points, (-22 points)
Texas: 54% -1 point, (+2 points)
But Louisiana farmers kept sowings on track with the typical
rate, with 91% completed, while Texas farmers got 26% of their corn seeded over
the week to get their planting programme back on track.
A forecast by Commodity Weather Group of Midwest coldness
over the next month "suggests a slow start to 2014 US corn planting and
emergence" as sowings hit the Corn Belt, Richard Feltes at broker RJ O'Brien
"Nonetheless, May Midwest rains, according to Commodity
Weather Group, will be near-normal in most areas - a scenario which would
minimise the odds of prolonged planting delays."