By Joanna Newman
FUELED by heavy trading and market rumours, wheat futures prices have soared 9% this week.
The main factor driving prices higher is a key quarterly report on crop planting intentions and stocks, to be released imminently.
The data is expected to confirm that US farmers plan to plant only 15.3 million acres of wheat this spring, one million acres less than last year and the smallest acreage since 1988.
In anticipation of the government report, the Chicago May futures contract closed on Tuesday, 30 March, at 294.0¢/bushel, up from around 270¢ a week ago.
Talk that China may re-enter the market for US wheat and that trade sanctions on Iran may be lifted also helping drive up prices.
Clearly, the Kosovo crisis is not holding back this US commodity, although there is talk about a possible impact on US wheat shipments to Russia.
This years wheat rally was fuelled by hopes of significant food aid to Russia in 1999, which would help alleviate US oversupply.
The start of NATO bombing brought reports that Russia was refusing to accept US food-aid in protest, a bizarre turn of events. However, it now appears that shipments are back on track.