By Joanna Newman

ALONG with the other US grain markets, maize has climbed strongly in recent days.

The US Department of Agriculture major quarterly report on planting intentions and stocks is expected to show a drop in maize acreage this spring in favour of soya beans which carry higher subsidies.

Most analysts expect American farmers to put 78 million acres in maize this season, down from just over 80m acres (192m ha) in 1998. Farmers in Illinois have already started planting their maize crop.

The Chicago May futures contract settled on Tuesday (30 March) at 232.0¢/bushel, up from 228.5¢/bushel a week ago.

Domestic feed demand will remain high as the pig population is shrinking slower than expected, according to the latest quarterly Hogs and Pigs report.

War in Serbia is having little impact. Maize prices admittedly suffered a small setback earlier last week at the start of NATO bombing, amidst speculation that the Kosovo crisis could hamper US food-aid shipments to Russia.

But the maize market shrugged this off quickly, with reports that Russia will continue to receive grain shipments from the USA.

Ironically, Russian officials had earlier threatened to refuse free US food handouts in retaliation for the NATO bombing.

Meanwhile closer to home, US producers are paying attention to the South American harvest.

Rains in Argentina are hampering progress with only 10% of the crop gathered – somewhat below average for the time of year.

There are reports of poor yields in Brazil due to dry weather conditions during the growing season which is also helping to support the US market.

  • Click here for current Chicago corn (maize) prices