By Joanna Newman

THESE are volatile times for soya beans as the US market finds itself buffeted by international news and developments in the domestic arena.

Soya bean prices initially reacted negatively to the NATO bombing, which was perceived as interfering with US food-aid grain shipments to Russia.

Last week Russian Prime Minister Primakov cancelled a visit to Washington.

But futures traders quickly shrugged off these concerns amidst reports that Russia may continue to be offered and accept US food-aid despite the Kosovo crisis.

The South American harvest is continuing apace, adding to regional oversupply and hampering US export potential.

Brazilian farmers are ahead of the game, with 35% of their crop in, compared with an average of 31% for the time of year.

Argentina is set to enjoy a period of dry weather which will improve harvest conditions for local producers.

In the domestic market, the latest pig report indicates that the pig population is shrinking more slowly than predicted, despite the collapse in pig prices. This in turn spells strong feed demand for soya products.

All eyes will be on the quarterly US Department of Agriculture report on planting intentions and stocks, released yesterday (Wednesday).

The data will show to what extent US farmers are being lured by the distortion of higher subsidies to plant more soya beans this spring.

After a volatile week, the Chicago May futures contract closed on Tuesday, 30 March, at 501.5¢/bushel, up from around 496¢ a week earlier.

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