Soybean futures rose to a six-month high on signs of increasing demand from China and limited supplies from the U.S., where farmers may shift more land to growing corn and wheat. Corn prices fell.
The U.S. inspected 15.07 million bushels of soybeans for export to China in the week ended March 8, almost seven times more than the same week last year, the government said March 12. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which will update acreage estimates on March 30, said last month that soybean planting may be unchanged this year, while farmers boost corn seeding by 2.3 percent and wheat by 6.6 percent.
“Demand has been relatively good coming out of China, and it looks like beans will get cheated on the acres this year,” Frank J. Cholly, a senior commodities broker at RJO Futures in Chicago, said in a telephone interview. “Corn right now is still a more profitable crop.”
Soybean futures for May delivery climbed 0.1 percent to settle at $13.5025 a bushel at 1:15 p.m. on the Chicago Board of Trade, after touching $13.6075, the highest for a most-active contract since Sept. 16. Futures have jumped 12 percent this year as dry weather threatened crops in South America.
Corn futures for May delivery slid 0.5 percent to $6.5875 a bushel in Chicago, capping the first drop in four sessions. The most-active contract is still up 1.9 percent this year.
Warm, sunny weather in the U.S. may encourage farmers to speed up spring fieldwork in preparation for an earlier-than-usual planting season, said Jason Britt, the president of brokerage Central States Commodities Inc. in Kansas City, Missouri.
Midwest temperatures this week topped 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) and may be “well above normal” during the next 10 days, Telvent DTN forecast. While most farmers begin planting corn in mid-April, Louisiana had sown 23 percent of its crop as of March 11, compared with 6 percent normally, the USDA said.
“It will not be long that someone will test the waters” and begin planting in the Midwest, Britt said in a telephone interview. “If we plant 94 or 95 million acres and get trend-line yields, a lot of this tightness in the corn situation is going to be alleviated.”
Corn is the biggest U.S. crop, valued at $76.5 billion in 2011, followed by soybeans at $35.8 billion, government figures show.