IT’S BEEN a tough few months for grain prices, but the last two weeks have seen a rebound from Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) December 09 futures contract lows.

Futures had slipped by early October to US456 cents a bushel, but have risen sharply to US520c/bushel this week.

This has resulted a mild rebound in Australian contract prices, although the sky-high Aussie dollar has absorbed much of the CBOT rise.

Nominally, the spike is due to weather concerns in the US. “The weather hasn’t been great in the US, and the production estimates have come off from that real top-end scenario,” said Australian Crop Forecasters’ managing director Ron Storey.

“There’s also a bit of an issue with the winter red wheat plant in southern areas through the Mississippi Delta, due to wet conditions.”

He said the wet, combined with pricing, has steered southern US growers out of cereals and back into soybeans.

AWB acquisitions manager, Jon White, said his company’s take on the situation was the current spike may well present a slim window of opportunity for Australian growers.

“We don’t see any fundamentals really supporting this rise – it seems to be purely speculative as the market gets back into commodities,” he said.

“There is the chance that this represents a good opportunity for Australian growers to lock in at a slightly higher level, given the lack of fundamental production concern to support it, in our view.”

Mr White noted growers had been coming out of the woodwork to lock in some forward contracts in the past few weeks, once spring rains had them confident there was a minimum level of production to negate any fears of wash-outs.

He said most of the interest had been in wheat.

“Our assessment is that farmers generally regard the current barley prices as just too low and will look to hold onto their barley in the hope of a rally next year, whereas they see wheat prices as better and a chance to generate some cash flow.”

However, Mr White said in spite of the spate of activity in the past fortnight, the feeling among the grain-buying industry was that it was the lowest amount of grower forward selling ever for a normal production year.

“There might be a bit more action than last year, when so many areas were drought-affected, but certainly in terms of a good production year like this, there is a record low in forward contracts.”

He attributed this to two factors.

“Firstly, farmers regard the prices as low, and not worth the risk of locking in a forward contract.

“Secondly, many growers are still hurting from 2007, when many of them got caught with excessive wash-outs costs, meaning they are wary of forward contracting products.”


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