By Joanna Newman

US maize prices have dropped sharply on the realisation that farmers will get their crop into the ground on time after all.

May has been dominated by concerns that wet weather would cause planting delays, hurting maize yields and encouraging producers to switch acreage to soya beans.

However, drier conditions in the cornbelt enabled farmers to get out in the fields last week and the short-term weather forecasts are also favourable.

The latest weekly US Department of Agriculture crop progress report shows that 87% has now been planted, up from 77% last week and slightly ahead of the average for the time of year.

Futures prices have reacted negatively over the past week as the weather scare recedes.

The Chicago July contract settled on Tuesday at 214.75¢/bushel, down 3% from 221.25¢ a week ago.

With planting behind us, the focus is shifting to weather patterns for the emerging crop.

Rain is now the farmerís friend and any spell of dry heat could cause a jump in prices.

Looking ahead to the summer, analysts warn against complacency, pointing out that the USA has not had a drought in eleven years.

This is probably the longest stretch on record. The risk is higher in 1999 because of El Niño last year, which could usher in a La Niña drought this year.