Grains in the first week of March got fairly volatile thanks to the situation in Ukraine standing on a razor’s edge.
The market see-sawed across a wide range and hit significant levels not seen since the US drought effects in September 2012. Oats continue to party like the music’s never going to stop, with the May contract close to touching $5 a bushel on the futures board in Chicago!
Despite being able to cut the tension with a knife in Ukraine, grain is still moving through the country’s pipeline. Ukraine has reportedly shipped 24.7 million tonnes of grain in the current marketing year through March 3.
This included 7.43 million tonnes of wheat (full-year forecast is 10 million tonnes), almost 3 million tonnes of oilseeds (2.06 million tonnes of rapeseed and 930,000 tonnes of soybeans) and 14.9 million tonnes of corn (full year forecast is for 18 million tonnes)!
While the situation is still in the early stages, the Ukrainian agricultural industry is persevering quite nicely while the political state remains in jeopardy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to the media soon after placing his military on alert, saying he’s not interested in making Crimea part of Russia, but that it’ll be up to the residents of Crimea to decide whether or not they re-join Mother Russia.
Right on cue, the Crimea parliament has set a referendum for the southern Ukrainian region on March 16.
Canada has officially said they will not recognize the referendum because the region is currently under “illegal military occupation”.
Further, Putin said that if the West implements any sanctions on Russia, it wouldn’t be a good move for anyone (they do export 30 per cent of the EU’s natural gas consumption).
The Russian President also said that he agrees with the West that “Ukrainians have the right for a change of the political system” but that ousted Ukrainian President Yanukovich is still legally the legitimate leader of Ukraine.
Clearly, the curtain is far from being closed on the situation.
Coming back to Canada, former Finance Minister and current Member of Parliament Ralph Goodale tactfully pointed out recently that Prime Minister Harper’s downfalls and blames him for the current transportation issues.
The Regina-based MP says that reports, information, and data dating back to 2007 pointed out pitfalls in the logistics system that Harper should’ve addressed but failed to do so.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall knows a little bit about using the facts, albeit analysts say that the Premier’s accusation that “General Mills will run out of oats in 15-20 days” is unfounded (“no more Cheerios,” you ask?).
One veteran ag-industry commentator, Randy Strychar, says that, in reality, U.S. millers likely have 60-75 days of supply left. Potentially adding to the problem though is the fact that C.P. and C.N. recently cut a few producer car loading sites across the Canadian Prairies due to inactivity or being inaccessible (a.k.a. no more tracks are there).
All this in mind, watching the markets can be hard – there’s a lot of noise out there these days and it’s easy to get emotional and point fingers.
Between Plant 2014 coming up and the Russian-Ukrainian debacle it’s noisy! (We can all agree perogies and borscht are tasty though right?).
Sometimes though, it’s worth putting your focus squarely on YOUR task at hand. When it comes to grain marketing, that should be YOUR bottom-line/return-on-investment.
Time for some perseverance.
Brennan Turner is originally from Foam Lake, SK, where his family started farming the land in the 1920s. After completing his degree in economics from Yale University and then playing some pro hockey, Mr. Turner spent some time working in finance before starting FarmLead.com, a risk-free, transparent online and now mobile grain marketplace (app available for iOS & Android). His weekly column is a summary of his free, daily market note, the FarmLead Breakfast Brief.
He can be reached via email (email@example.com) or phone (1-855-332-7653).