By Joanna Newman

FOLLOWING a 5% rally during the first half of November, US soya bean prices have lost some ground over the past few trading days in the absence of any market impetus.

The Chicago January futures contract settled on Tuesday (17 November) at 582¢/bushel, compared with a recent peak of 587¢/bushel last Thursday.

With the US harvest almost completed, the focus of interest is shifting to the southern hemisphere. US domestic prices are now being driven by weather conditions south of the border. Forecasts of timely rain for South American soya bean fields over the weekend pressured US prices on Friday.

Meanwhile, bean acreage is on the rise. Farmers in Brazil and Argentina are busy planting more beans instead of wheat and maize this year, and the extra supply comes on top of a record US harvest in 1998, estimated at 2.76 billion bushels.

Most analysts remain cautious, warning that there is a large unsold domestic crop in the USA, and many concerns surrounding the export market. On the positive side, the large quantity of beans crushed for meal and soya oil suggests strong demand for soya products and this should give some support to the market.

During October, 142.5 million bushels of soya beans were crushed, according to the National Oilseed Producers Association, above expectations.

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