Corn Leads Surge in Crops With Global Supply Concerns Mounting

Kim Chipman and Bre Bradham
·2 min read

(Bloomberg) --

Corn extended its ascent to the highest in almost eight years, leading a rally in crop futures on bets that voracious Chinese demand, rebounding economies and adverse weather will leave silos depleted.

Corn jumped by the exchange limit, with wheat following and soybeans topping $15 a bushel for the first time since 2014. Cold and drought in some regions are stoking concern there won’t be enough grain and oilseed to satisfy China’s massive need for livestock feed or to meet growing biofuel demand as the world economy recovers from the virus pandemic.

China is so eager for more corn that it’s already scooping up next season’s crop, and demand isn’t expected to slow this year. Investors have been piling into agricultural commodities as tight global stockpiles mean unfavorable weather could cause prices to rally further, with money managers raising their net-bullish wagers on corn to a 10-year high last week.

“We know there’s monster global demand for feed grains right now and people starting to wonder what happens if the Brazil crop comes in short,” Joe Nussmeier, a broker at Frontier Futures in Minneapolis, said in an interview. “Each day without a soaking rain is taking their yield down.”

U.S. farmers have slowed planting amid a record cold snap that may also have damaged hard winter wheat, which is set for harvest in a few months. At the same time, Brazil’s second corn crop of the season is suffering from drought, and worry about a lackluster or poor harvest is growing.

Soaring corn futures are making wheat more attractive for cattle feed, especially as farmers are seen holding back on corn sales in a bid not to lose out on future price gains.

“Right now we are running out of corn and the cheapest alternative is wheat,” Nussmeier said. “Wheat is getting a big step up.”

Thursday’s market also saw traders piling into options to bet on, or protect against, further surges in agricultural commodities. Call volume across corn, soybeans, wheat and other crops was more than 363,000 contracts, according to preliminary data, the highest total since January. In corn, both implied volatility and the call skew were jumping.

Soybean oil climbed by as much as the exchange limit of 2.5 cents per pound to its highest price since 2011 amid growing demand for renewable diesel.

Corn futures in Chicago rose as much as 4.1% to $6.315 a bushel, the highest since May 2013. Benchmark wheat in Chicago gained 5.3% to $7.105, the highest settlement price in almost seven years.

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