By Joanna Newman

PRIVATE and government weather experts are competing to bring the best weather forecasts to US maize farmers.

This week, the message has been fairly consistent across the board – too much rain in the cornbelt.

Wet fields are delaying planting and may even encourage farmers to switch acreage to soya beans.

Only 21% of Americas maize has been planted, substantially behind last years completion rate of 36% or a five-year average of 34% for the time of year.

Not surprisingly in this weather-dominated market, futures prices have jumped in reaction to conditions in the fields.

The Chicago May contract closed on Tuesday (4 May) at 218.75¢/bushel, up from 215.3¢ a week earlier.

For the next few weeks during planting season, prices will be at the mercy of the skies.

While there is still time for farmers to catch up, experience suggests that maize planted after the second week of May suffers from poorer yields.

As well as planting delays, strong exports are also underpinning the US maize market – for the past three weeks exporters have concluded over 1 million tonnes a week and shipments are 24% ahead of last years rate.

Last week the USA eased trade sanctions on Iran, Libya and Sudan, which could open up further export opportunities for US maize.