U.S. Corn Crop Seen Reaching Record Even With Slow Planting

Corn production in the U.S., the world’s largest grower, may reach a record this year on yield gains even after wet weather curbed planting to the slowest pace in three decades, the U.S. Grains Council said.

With normal rainfall, the trendline yield may reach 163 bushels an acre, pushing the harvest to the highest ever, Kevin Roepke, manager for global trade, said in an interview today. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates output will rise to an all-time high of 359.2 metric million tons, assuming average yield rebounds to 158 bushels from 123.4 bushels last year, when the crop suffered from the worst drought since the 1930s.

Corn futures are headed for the first monthly gain in four after the USDA said that about 28 percent of the crop was planted as of May 12. That’s the slowest pace for the 19th week of the year since at least 1980, USDA data show. The planting progress raised concern that acreage may miss government forecast of 97.28 million acres, the most since 1936.

“We have biotechnology, hybrids, and we have precision agriculture dialed in so well that we now can produce huge crops very efficiently, very sustainably on less acres,” said Roepke in Bali, Indonesia where he addressed a grain transport conference. “It matters what the yield is, not the acres.”

Corn for July delivery rose 0.6 percent to $6.5675 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade by 4:42 p.m. Singapore time. Futures are poised for a 1 percent gain in May after losing 12 percent in the three months through April.

U.S. farmers may plant 96.827 million acres, less than the 97.753 million estimated on March 22, Informa Economics Inc. said in a May 17 report, after surveying producers and industry representatives this month.

“If weather conditions remain favorable, we can still have a record crop regardless of our slow planting pace,” said Roepke, who was a trader at Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. before joining the Washington-based grains council. “It’s not too late. The biggest variable is the yield.”

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