Thursday, 10 June, 1999

By Joanna Newman

The US wheat market has remained firm in recent days, sustaining last weeks rally.

The Chicago July contract settled on Tuesday, 8 June, at 255.3 cents/bushel, up from 251.8 cents a week earlier.

There are widespread concerns over quality problems with the hard red winter wheat crop, in particular low protein content.

The USDA rates between a tenth and a fifth of the crop as poor to very poor. All of these low-quality bushels will doubtless try to find their way into the livestock feed ration, adding pressure to prices.

If maize proves more attractive for cattlemen, then wheat farmers will be unable to shift enough bushels and will soon face a logistical problem in storing their wheat.

Excess rain has delayed winter wheat harvesting and yields per acre are proving disappointing, according to some reports.

Only 5% of the crop has been harvested so far and activity has stopped in the southern plains, awaiting a dry spell.

Meanwhile spring planting has also been delayed in some areas by heavy rains. As of last week, only 92% of the spring wheat crop was in the ground, compared with 100% at the same point a year ago.

It is now getting so late that some spring wheat acres may not be planted at all.

Farmers are likely to take crop insurance instead of planting the remaining acres, or may switch these fields to soya beans, thereby exacerbating the soya bean glut this autumn.