Corn Market Expects Large Supply & Weak Demand

The price of corn is as low as it has been since last fall. It reflects the large size of last year’s crop, and surprisingly little concern about this year’s crop.

December corn futures in Chicago, at the time of this writing, were priced in the low $3.80’s. That’s about twenty cents better than the contract low set last fall, but still not nearly strong enough to reflect the $4.25 season’s average cash price the University of Illinois ag economists are using in their supply and demand table for the coming year. Darrel Good sums it up this way.

Quote Summary - Current prices appear to reflect minimum production risk and surprisingly weak demand prospects.

Let’s take that statement apart. We’ll start with price. The price of old crop corn, while at the lowest level since last October at the futures exchange in Chicago, isn’t nearly so cheap in the country. Last fall corn for July delivery in central Illinois was priced 70 cents under the July contract. It is 14 under now. Here’s what that, in relative terms, means. The cash price for the same delivery time, at this point, could be as much as 70 cents better today than it was last fall. The supply and demand of corn have changed since last fall, too. However, looking forward Darrel Good says the current price of corn reflects expectations for a combination of prolonged demand weakness and another year of ample supplies.

Quote Summary - Expectations for demand weakness center on the ethanol and export markets. It is generally argued that plateauing domestic ethanol consumption, a stronger dollar that could favor ethanol imports and discourages exports, and low crude oil prices will limit the price of ethanol and the demand for corn. Similarly, abundant world grain supplies and a stronger dollar are expected to create a weak demand environment for U.S. corn in the world market. In contrast, domestic feed demand for corn should be supported by ongoing expansion in livestock and poultry numbers, even with some loss of poultry numbers to bird flu.

The combination of expanding livestock numbers and low corn prices, writes Good in his FarmDacDaily website posting of April 27th, should generate a high level of consumption. That’s demand. Supply will be largely dependent on the number of acres of corn farmers plant this spring, and weather this summer. We’ll no more June 30th when USDA releases the Planted Acreage report. Here’s how those numbers have changed from March to June since 1996.

Quote Summary - From 1996 (the beginning of the freedom to farm era) through 2014, the final estimate of planted acreage of corn exceeded the March intentions estimate in seven years and was less than the March estimate in 12 years. In most years, the difference was within the range of sampling error, estimated at one to three percent. The exception was 2007 when actual planted acres exceeded intentions by nearly 3.1 million acres.

There is already a lot of discussion again this year about the direction and magnitude of the difference between actual and intended acreage of corn. Chances are, says Darrel Good, the difference will not substantially alter production expectations.

All else equal, the larger percentage of the crop that is planted in a timely fashion the higher the U.S. average yield potential. However, all else is rarely equal Good claims, with the magnitude of yield ultimately determined by summer weather. Unless an unusually large or small percentage of the crop is planted late this year, yield expectations should continue to focus on trend value in the range of 164 to 165 bushels. The USDA will report an expected yield in the May 12 WASDE figures. That yield expectation is based on a weather adjusted trend model that reflects expected planting progress at mid-May.

As for current prices, these appear to reflect minimum production risk and surprisingly weak demand prospects.