By Joanna Newman

THE US soya bean market remains a barometer of South American weather patterns.

The last few days have seen timely rains in Brazil and Argentina, where bean farmers have enjoyed favourable growing conditions so far this season.

As a result, prices in the northern hemisphere are still under pressure.

The Chicago March futures contract lost over 1% during the past week to close at 528.00¢/bushel on 20 January.

This comes on top of steep losses early last week following a government report showing severe oversupply in the wake of last years record 2.76 billion-bushel harvest.

An accelerated crush activity would help absorb the stores of soya beans, but the latest crush data is disappointing.

In December the industry crushed only 141 million bushels for soya oil, down 7 million from December 1997.

The US market derived some comfort from the latest export figures, which show that 22.6 million bushels of soya beans were inspected for export during the week ended 14 January, ahead of estimates.

But the future for exports does not look bright. The Brazilian currency devaluation makes Brazils exports more competitive.

Given Brazils status as a major soya bean producer this will have even more impact on the global soya bean market than on wheat or maize.

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