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Weekly grain movement: Export sales report

Darren Robb/Getty Images Plus Barge with containers on open water
Corn export sales, shipments continue to shine.

Enthusiasm is waning for new 2020/21 corn and soybean export sales about as much as Northern Plains spring wheat crops in the heat.

But new crop export sales tell a different – and much more optimistic – story for the grains complex.

In its weekly Export Sales report released this morning, USDA reported only 4.1 million bushels of 2020/21 corn export sales were ordered during the July 16-22 reporting week. It was a 3.6-million-bushel decline from the previous week as buyer interest wanes in the last several weeks of the 2020/21 marketing year.

This trend is not unusual for late in the marketing year. And it was largely overshadowed by accompanying data released by USDA in this morning’s report. 2021/22 corn export sales booked for the week topped 20.8 million bushels – nearly five times higher than the corn export orders booked last week.

Mexico (6.8M bu.), unknown buyers (5.9M bu.), and Colombia (5.1M bu.) booked the largest new crop corn export orders through the week ending July 22. The week’s sales were the largest since China’s new crop buying spree ending in mid-May.

Export shipments for the week ending July 22 were also among the highest volumes seen by exporters since mid-June. USDA reported 53.6 million bushels of corn left U.S. export terminals over the past week, up over a third from a week prior.

While China has refrained from openly booking corn sales over the past couple months, it was the top destination for U.S. corn last week. Exporters shipped 27.6 million bushels of corn to the world’s second largest economy as tight soy crush margins send Chinese livestock producers abroad in search of cheaper feedstuffs. Japan (12.1M bu.) and Mexico (10.1M bu.) rounded out the top three.

Markets rewarded the uptick in weekly shipping volumes and new crop corn export sales. Weekly corn export shipments have lagged behind record-setting paces set earlier this year. But this morning’s report reaffirms that export demand for corn remains strong and if current trends continue, U.S. exporters are very likely to hit USDA’s export target of 2.85 billion bushels for the 2020/21 marketing year.

China awaits new crop soybeans

Similar to corn, old crop soybean export sales in this morning’s Export Sales report from USDA were nothing to write home about. And while 5.8 million bushels in current year export cancellations from Japan and unknown buyers were not welcomed by market watchers, it paled in comparison to renewed enthusiasm for new crop export sales.

Mexico booked 5.9 million bushels of 2021/22 soybeans through the week ending July 22 and China followed closely behind with 4.4 million bushels. Notably, unknown buyers cancelled 2.4 million bushels of new crop soybean orders.

While it was a shot of optimism for new crop soybean prices, price opportunity was limited as China continues to lag behind last year’s new crop buying paces. A year ago, China had booked 47% more bushels of new crop soybeans.

Despite being a player in export sales, China was not among the top destinations for U.S. soybeans last week. Weekly shipments rose nearly 3 million bushels on the week to 9 million bushels. Mexico (3.9M bu.), Bangladesh (2.2M bu.), and Canada (1.2M bu.) paved the way for the largest week of soybean exports since early June.

The U.S. has shipped 2.20 billion bushels of soybeans to international buyers so far in 2020/21. With only a handful of weeks remaining in the marketing year, it seems highly likely exporters will reach USDA’s 2.27-billion-bushel target with ease in the coming weeks.

Wheat shipments struggle to compete with higher corn, soy loadings

As freshly harvested winter wheat makes its way to export terminals, international buyers continue to eagerly snap up U.S. supplies. For the week ending July 22, 20.5 million bushels of 2021/22 wheat exports were ordered by international buyers.

China (4.8M bu.), Mexico (3.1M bu.), and the Philippines (2.1M bu.) were the most active buyers during the reporting week. But it’s worth noting that sales to Southeast Asian countries totaled a massive 12.9 million bushels – nearly two thirds of the weekly total.

Wheat export shipments fell by over a quarter on the week as barge bids competed with higher corn and soybean demand. For the week ending July 22, only 12.7 million bushels of wheat were shipped out of U.S. ports, the lowest weekly volume recorded in the past month.

The lion’s share of wheat exports for the week were shipped to Mexico (3.1M bu.) and China (2.4M bu.), both countries recording slightly higher tallies on the week. Smaller shipments to Southeast Asian and other Central and South American countries accounted for a smaller weekly shipping volume during peak wheat exporting season.

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