Fundamentally Speaking

USDA Forecasting Record Corn and Soybean Exports

Joel Karlin
By  Joel Karlin , DTN Contributing Analyst
Chart by Joel Karlin, DTN Contributing Analyst

Besides worrisome South American weather, the other strong driver for soybeans to be fetching the highest prices in four years and corn at a 16-month peak has been record exports.

The year-to-date figure for corn at 1.454 billion bushels (bb) is already 55% of the total year-end projection while cumulative soybean sales total 1.908 bb, 87% of the end of year target.

Now the question is whether USDA export projections need to move even higher and if this is even possible.

USDA has soybean exports record-high at 2.20 bb but despite the torrid export pace, that has not changed in three months.

With 2020/21 ending stocks at 190 million bushesl (mb) and the possibility of that going lower given a likely drop in the 2020 yield, there is limited scope to raise the projection.

Corn may have more room although a drop in yield is usually seen in the January production report.

Some say a bigger concern is whether it is even physically possible to ship all of this product by the end of the marketing year 8/31/2021.

A report we saw last week looking at past corn and soybean export shipment schedules suggests that there may be room for even more exports than appear on the balance sheet, but it depends on the timing of shipments and the destinations.

Along these lines this chart shows U.S. soybean and corn total export shipments through the third week in November in million bushels on the left-hand axis vs. those shipments as a percent of the November USDA WASDE export projection on the right-hand axis.

For soybeans the case is clear as total export shipments by the third week of November this year are record high at 905 mb.

As a percent of the 2.20 bb end-of-year export projection, soybeans are also a record at 41.1%, well above the 20-year average of only having 31.3% shipped by this point in the marketing year.

There are more questions for corn however as the 362.1 mb shipped so far this year is not only below the 20-year average but the 13.8% shipped so far this season, other than last year's 12.4% shipped as of the third week of November, is about the slowest over the past twenty years and well under the 2000-2019 average of 18.3%.

One positive way to spin this however is with such an accelerated soybean shipment pace and the real possibility that soybean export projections will not increase, this leaves more time and room for all the corn exports on the books to be shipped prior to the start of the new marketing year.


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