Assessing the Potential for Higher Corn Prices
The odds are against four dollar cash corn this year and next, at least for any extended period of time.
The monthly average cash price paid to farmers in the United States for their corn has been less than $4.00 a bushel for 27 consecutive months. It’s likely to stay that way well into 2017, too, says University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Darrel Good unless something changes, “Some combination of a reduction in corn supplies and increased consumption will be required in order for prices to move above $4.00 per bushel for an extended time.”
On the supply side, or how much corn is around, USDA’s next Crop Production report is due November 9th. It will contain a new forecast of the size of the 2016 U.S. corn crop. Previous history of yield forecast changes in November in years when the forecast declined in September and again in October as was the case this year, says Darrel Good, show very mixed results with 5 moving lower, 1 unchanged, and 4 of the ten getting bigger. The trade is leaning toward a smaller corn yield this time around. So, not a lot of supply side help expected from the USDA reports on this fall’s crop. That make the southern hemisphere pivotal.
Brazilian production declined from 3.35 billion bushels in 2015 to 2.64 billion bushels in 2016 due to late season drought. Early season USDA projections are for production in 2017 to rebound to 3.29 billion bushels. In addition, Argentina is expected to expand corn area due to reductions in export taxes.
It is too early in the South American growing season to assess yield potential, but production well below early projections would be required to push corn prices higher says Good in his Weekly Outlook on the Farm Doc Daily website. He also thinks a more likely source of a reduction in corn supply may be reduced corn acreage in the United States next year.
Darrel Good - Assuming a three million acre reduction in harvested acreage and consumption during the 2017–18 marketing year near the 14.525 billion bushels projected for this year, the 2017 average yield would need to be below 173 bushels in order for year-ending stocks to be reduced from the 2.32 billion bushels projected for the current year. Under the acreage and consumption assumptions made here, a yield near trend value of 169 bushels would result in year-ending stocks of about 1.99 billion bushels.
There are lot of supply side ifs in that statement. Maybe then demand for corn could be the key to higher prices. The good news here is that U.S. corn exports are up, but that’s based upon last year’s poor corn crop out of Brazil. It doesn’t appear feed usage will increase either, thinks Good, and while the ethanol grind has be increasing, USDA has already penciled in an extra 100 million bushels of usage.
It appears unlikely thinks Darrel Good that higher corn prices will be generated by a large reduction in the estimated size of the 2016 U.S. crop or stronger than projected demand for that corn. That leaves a smaller than expected South American crop or a much smaller U.S. crop in 2017 as the potential sources of higher prices. If South American production increases as projected, a large decline in U.S. acreage and/or a 2017 yield below trend value may be required to push the average corn price above $4.00 during the 2017–18 marketing year.