Agricultural commodity bulls will hardly remember 2017 as a vintage year.
The Bcom agriculture subindex fell by 11.9% to 47.5089, to record its lowest year-end since it started in January 1991 (with an index figure of 100.00).
And many contracts far underperformed that, with futures in Johannesburg-traded maize faring particularly badly, as a return of rains brought a sharp rebound in crop production in South Africa, and the need for values to price for exports – against a well-supplied international market.
However, the opposite dynamics were in play in Australia, where wheat production diminished by drought and late frost spurred purchasing needs in the east coast, driving some markets to import parity (which, in including shipping costs, is significantly higher than export parity).
Indeed, wheat prices worldwide actually fared better than might have been thought from downbeat trader talk, with values of high protein spring wheat performing notably well, after setbacks from drought to North American crops, while Germany’s hard winter wheat harvest was undermined by wet weather.
Livestock contracts also managed gains, helped by unexpectedly strong US beef and pork exports (up 12.5% and 6.7% respectively, on US Department of Agriculture estimates), which eased concerns over a rise in meat supplies prompted by herd rebuilding.
And cotton futures were supported somewhat by productions setbacks in the US and India, the top two exporters, but also by a rise in oil prices, which boosts the price of rival polyester, and by the continuing appetite for fibre auctioned from China’s state stockpiles – indicating healthy demand in the top consuming country.
Price performance of selected ag commodity futures over 2017
East coast Australia wheat (Sydney): +16.1%, (+25.6%)
Hard red spring wheat (Minneapolis): +14.3%
Feeder cattle (Chicago): +11.9%
Cotton (New York): +11.3%
Lean hogs (Chicago): +8.5%
Soft red winter wheat (Chicago): +4.7%
Live cattle (Chicago): +2.1%
Hard red winter wheat (Kansas City): +2.1%
Soymeal (Chicago): -0.1%
Corn (Chicago): -0.4%
Feed wheat (London): -1.9%, (+7.5%)
Canola (Winnipeg): -3.3%
Soyoil (Chicago): -3.9%
Soybeans (Chicago): -4.5%
Soft milling wheat (Paris): -5.4%, (+8.1%)
Arabica coffee (New York): -7.9%
Cocoa (New York): -11.0%
Rapeseed (Paris): -14.9%, (-2.8%)
Palm oil (Kuala Lumpur): -20.0%, (-11.3%)
Cocoa (London): -20.4%, (-12.8%)
Robusta coffee (London): -20.6%
Raw sugar (New York): -22.3%
White sugar (London): -24.7%
Yellow maize (Johannesburg): -40.8%, (-34.2%)
White maize (Johannesburg): -49.3%, (-43.7%)
Main figures show move over 2017 on a spot contract basis. Figures in brackets show moves in dollar terms.