grain barge river elevator DarcyMaulsby /iStock/Thinkstock.
This barge on the Mississippi River in eastern Iowa is taking on a load of grain, either corn or soybeans, from area farms.

WEEKLY GRAIN MOVEMENT: Inspections good, but not great

Corn and soybean shipments fall below last year’s levels.

Export inspections out of the U.S. remain good as the summer winds down, but the volume of corn and soybean isn’t as big as some years that have seen fire-sale prices ignite wholesale clearance.

To be sure, crop prices are far from great when viewed from the perspective of farmers losing money on sales. Growers appear to be holding on as long as possible to old-crop inventories of corn and soybeans, helping boost basis in the export pipeline.

Export inspections of corn last week eased to 27.2 million bu., below the low end of trade guesses and less than the five-year average for the week. Still, the total was above the weekly rate needed to reach the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual forecast for the marketing year ending Aug. 31. The 2016 crop selling season is turning out to be one of the best on record, thanks to drought that cut shipments out of Brazil last year. That led to a surge of shipments a year ago, when the total topped 50 million bu. as farmers cleared out space for record crops.

Mexico remained the leading destination for corn as North American Free Trade Agreement talks got underway, taking 9.4 million bu. Japan was a close second with a million less, with most of the rest going to Central and South American destinations.

Soybean inspections of 24.4 million bu. were above average for the tail end of the marketing year, when shipments normally trail off. That wasn’t the case a year ago either, thanks to movement out of Brazil that’s again slower than normal as farmers balk at selling due to low prices.

Total inspections of 2016 crop soybeans lag the pace needed to meet the annual USDA forecast but are still likely to reach the government’s projection. Official exports tracked by the Census Bureau are running about 3% above inspections -- enough to make up the difference.

China was again the leading destination for soybeans as its purchases continue to improve in August after a summer lull. The world’s largest importer of soybeans added another 10.2 million bu., with most of the rest going to Mexico, the Middle East and South Asia.

Wheat inspections of 21.4 million bu. were in line with trade guesses and beat the weekly rate needed to reach the USDA forecast for the 2017 crop. While the government sees exports dropping slightly, the year-to-date total is up around 12%.

Inspections were spread around Asia, the Americas and Africa, with multiple buyers showing up. China led all takers with 4.4 million bu., followed by the Philippines with 4.2 million bu. Although China has huge reserves of wheat, it normal imports higher-quality grain that it can’t produce at home.

Corn export destinations, bushels – week ended August 17 – USDA

Soybean export destinations, bushels – week ended August 17 – USDA

Wheat export destinations, bushels – week ended August 17 – USDA

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