USDA estimate for corn sowings '2m acres too low'

US farm officials have underestimated domestic corn sowings this year by more than 2m acres, the International Grains Council said, citing the boost to plantings from "tight stocks and high prices".

The IGC, in its first forecasts for 2013-14 corn crops, pegged US sowings of the grain at 40.0m hectares, equivalent to 98.8m acres.

That would represent a rise of 1.6m acres year on year, and the biggest US corn area since 1936.

And it contrasts with an estimate on Thursday from the US Department of Agriculture, that US corn seedings will fall this year, by 700,000 acres to 96.5m acres, reflecting an assumption of "a return to more normal spring weather".

Last year, an unusually benign early planting period encouraged farmers to maximise sowings corn, even at the expense of other crops, such as soybeans, for which the seeding window runs a little later.

'Investors surprised'

The IGC said that plantings "are expected to increase further in response to tight stocks and high prices", although the increase would be "capped by competition from other crops, notably spring wheat".

The council's estimate chimes with analyst scepticism that US corn area will fall this year.

At broker Benson Quinn Commodities, Ben Bradbury said investors had been "surprised" by the USDA's forecast.

"After record corn prices were seen this year many anticipate planted acres pushing 98m-99m acres," Mr Bradbury said.

On a harvested basis, the IGC forecast a rise in acreage of about 4%, given that abandonment rates last year were enhanced by drought, and inferring an area of a little under 91m acres.

Global picture

On a global basis, the rise in harvested area will be limited to 0.6%, taking it to 172.5m hectares, the council said.

Plantings in the European Union and Ukraine will be constrained by the reduced area available for spring sowings, with autumn-seeded crops deemed to have pulled through the winter in better shape.

"However, both planted areas are expected to still be above average at 9.4m ha hectares and 4.0m hectares respectively."

In China, the second-ranked corn producing state after the US, plantings "are expected to at least match last year's 34.8m hectares, with the potential to further increase yields by using more productive hybrids".

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