Corn supply, global competition soften wheat prices

Matthew Weaver

Capital Press

Farm Direction president and founder Kevin Van Trump says a large corn supply and strong global competition could push wheat prices lower.

SPOKANE — A large corn supply and global uncertainty are some of the factors likely to soften wheat prices in the coming year, an analyst says.

Kevin Van Trump, president and founder of Farm Direction based in Raymore, Mo., delivered his economic forecast during the Spokane Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum.

Wheat prices are tied to corn prices, Van Trump said, with cheaper corn replacing wheat as a feed substitute, he said. A further concern is the lack of storage in the Midwest that could force farmers there to flood the market with wheat, Van Trump said.

“I know people are thinking, ‘Holy smokes, wheat compared to corn has dropped tremendously,’ but we think it could go even lower,” Van Trump said.

Some speculators believe corn prices could go as low as $2.75 to $3.50 per bushel, with wheat prices a dollar higher at best, Van Trump said.

Van Trump sees other potential issues on the wheat market being strong competition on the global market from Canada, Australia, the Black Sea region and India.

Ten years ago, the United States accounted for 30 percent of world wheat exports, but now it’s closer to 20 percent, he said.

However, he said wheat crop concerns in China, India, Russia, Australia, France and Canada could support global wheat prices.

“Now that you’ve got more players in the game, this is potentially more bullish news,” he said. “You’ve got more chances for weather hiccups all across the world.”

Another factor is large banks are looking for a way out of agricultural commodity speculation, Van Trump said. Commodity funds have lost ground to better-performing equity funds. Investors have taken $36 billion out of commodity funds, compared to a $27 billion inflow.

Other world factors to watch include possible militarization between China and Russia, as the two countries look for new ground to serve growing populations, he said.

The U.S. dollar is strengthening, which increases the price of U.S. wheat in some foreign countries. That reduces the number of countries purchasing U.S. exports, he said.

Van Trump tries to market the first 20 to 30 percent of his wheat crop before planting, then 50 percent of the crop by Feb. 1. He markets the remainder of the crop that he doesn’t plan to store between Feb. 1 and June 30.

Van Trump strives to get the first percentage off the books at a good gross profit.

“From an emotional side, it makes making sales a lot easier,” he said. “It’s always the first sale that is really the bear, we think, because you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself. We don’t ever sell the exact highs, but we don’t usually ever sell the lows, either.”



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