Friday, August 10, 2012

"Say What? $55-Plus Soybeans and $17-Plus Corn!"

As we wait for the USDA and their WASDE report here's a thought: The era of cheap food is over.
It was a good run. As I mentioned back in 2007 the era can be dated with some certainty as beginning on May 16, 1846. On that day the headline at The Economist was "The Corn Laws Repealed by the House of Commons" allowing importation of American grains and guaranteeing the success of McCormick and his reaper.
From another of our 2007 posts:
...Invented in 1831 and patented in 1834, McCormick didn't sell a single machine until 1840. The sales figures for the early years are debatable but these are the best I could put together:
1840------- 2
1843------ 29
1844------ 50
1845------ 58
1846------ 75
The era was neatly bookended in 2007 by another story in The Economist, "The end of cheap food" which included this chart:

This has been a longer than usual introduction, for your patience here's the headline story from AgWeb:

If $10 per bushel corn and $20 per bushel soybeans seemed unfathomable a month ago, try $17 corn and $55 soybeans this month.

According to Terry Roggensack, founding principal of the Hightower Report, prices that high can’t be ruled out.

Roggensack was a commentator on the CME Group’s Aug. 9 conference call ahead of August’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE). He looked at the price highs set in 1973, the last time the world corn and soybean supply situation was as tight as it is today, and extrapolated in constant dollars what prices would need to be today to ration demand. His answer: $17.59 for corn and $55.09 for soybeans. And that doesn’t factor in inflation.

Balance sheets don’t work

The other commentator on the call, Dan Basse, president of AgResources, declined to provide a price ceiling for either corn or soybeans. "The cash market will tell us how high prices will go," says Basse. "I can’t figure out the balance sheet." The numbers don’t work, he adds....MORE
Basse also thinks the final corn yield could be below or near 120 bushels. Slice 4 million harvested acres from USDA’s projections and corn production would drop to between 10 billion and 10.5 billion bushels, which means corn would need to go to $9.85 to nearly $11 to ration current demand.