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EU corn woes could 'open the flow' of imports from Brazil

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Brazil - having enjoyed strong soybean exports to China which look like undermining volumes from rival shipper the US - may see strength too in corn shipments to Europe, whose own crop has been marred by drought, Bunge said.

Soren Schroder, the Bunge chief executive, said that the ongoing winter wheat harvest in Europe, Russia and Ukraine, which has been spurred by recent dry weather, was generally producing yields "better than we expected".

However, prospects for corn - for which the dryness is far from ideal, coming amid the key pollination process – were less upbeat.

The crop faced "challenges", Mr Schroder said, citing in particular "the east European corn crops, where hot weather during pollination has really hurt yield potential".

Silage vs grain

However, crops in other areas are being tested too by a lack of rainfall, with FranceAgriMer, the official French crop bureau, on Friday cutting further its rating on domestic corn, to 59% "good" or "excellent", down 3 points week on week, and well below the 84% reading a year ago.

The rating on French corn, the European Union's biggest harvest, has now declined by 22 points in four weeks.

And consultancy Agritel noted an extra pressure on French corn production, for grain, saying that the area farmers crop as silage, rather than grain, "will have to be increased due to lack of grass" for making grass-based fodder.

Earlier this week, the EU's official Mars agricultural meteorology division cut by 0.51 tonnes per hectare to 6.71 tonnes per hectare its forecast for the bloc's 2015 corn yield, taking it well below the five-year average.

'Open the flow'

The prospect of weakened EU corn production could open up the bloc to a rise in imports of the grain from Brazil.

"It might very well mean that you will open the flow of Brazilian corn to Europe," Mr Schroder said, adding that for Bunge, which is with Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus, one of the ABCD of crop trading giants, such a trade flow "should speak to our strength".

The EU typically imports corn from Ukraine as a first resort, with the region buying nearly half of Ukrainian feed corn in 2013-14, on an October-to-September basis.

'Stress will be maintained'

However, Brazil is often a popular origin too, with the South American country shipping 740,000 tonnes of corn to the Netherlands in 2013 and 784,000 tonnes to Spain, although both those figures declined below 300,000 tonnes for last year, when the EU enjoyed a strong corn harvest itself.

The International Grains Council on Thursday raised by 700,000 tonnes to 12.7m tonnes its estimate for EU corn imports in the year to September 2016, a 40% jump year on year, as it cut its forecast for the region's harvest by 700,000 tonnes to 66.9m tonnes.

And Ukraine is having its own dryness issues, with weather service MDA noting that, even after recent showers in the centre and east of the country, "more rain will likely be needed in order to fully restore [moisture] supplies for corn growth.

"Stress will be maintained across western and far eastern Ukraine."

'Very, very strong flow of soybeans'

Mr Schroder, speaking after Bunge unveiled worse-than-expected results which sent its shares lower, also highlighted Brazil's success in shipping soybeans to China, the top importer of the oilseed.

"We had a very, very strong flow of soybeans from South America, from Brazil in particular, during April, May and June," he told investors.

Such trade "has built inventories in China", a factor which means that the "early part of the US export season will be a little slower than it was last year.

"You can see that reflected in the open export sales of soybeans compared to last year," with official data on Thursday showing advance total import orders for US soybeans in 2015-16 at 7.99m tonnes – half the forward sales for 2014-15 as of a year ago.

Chinese feed needs

The weak US export sales data has raised concerns among investors that US soybean exports in 2015-16, which starts in September, will not come close to the 1.78bn bushels that the US Department of Agriculture forecasts.

At Chicago broker RJ O'Brien, Richard Feltes said that "private sector analysts are already trimming another 100m bushels off of the USDA's 1.775bn-bushel 2015-16 US soybean export forecast, while standing ready to trim more if the soy export pace does not accelerate soon".

However, Mr Schroder reassured on Chinese demand for soybeans, to crush into feed ingredient soymeal, despite expectations of a drop in the country's huge hog herd.

"We still look at soymeal growth domestic consumption in China as being positive, somewhere in the 5%, 6% plus area for this year," he said.

"Despite the reduced production in China of pork, inclusion and formulation of soymeal continues to rise."

By Agrimoney.com

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