By Joanna Newman

THE massive oversupply of soya beans in the US continues to take its toll on market prices.

The Chicago May contract has slipped again to 469.25/bushel, from 478.5 a week ago.

Producers are bracing themselves for the release of official US Department of Agriculture projections of 1999/2000 ending inventories.

Encouraged by distorted federal subsidies, farmers intend to plant record soya bean acreage this spring and as a result the carryout will grow sharply from 1998/1999 stocks of 430 million bushels, the highest in 13 years.

Just how many bean acres are planted depends on the weather. In early May, maize planters were hampered by wet conditions and analysts feared they might switch to soya beans, thereby exacerbating the oversupply.

However, during the past week producers have caught up with their maize planting thanks to drier weather and the threat of extra soya bean acres has receded.

Meanwhile domestic soya bean planting is progressing normally with 12% in the ground, in line with the five-year average.

On the international front, there is little to cheer Americas beleaguered farmers. US exports face fierce competition from South America.

The Brazilian harvest is almost complete, while the Argentinean crop has suffered only limited damage from heavy rains.

War in the Balkans has finally reverberated through to US soya bean market.

Reactions to the NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy have raised fears that China may withdraw from the market for commodities such as vegetable oils, which in turn will affect US soya oil prices.

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