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Analisten verwachten in 2007 de hoogste sojaprijzen in ruim 30 jaar, nu Amerikaanse boeren de teelt van maïs lijken te verkiezen boven de bonen. Het soja-areaal zou in de VS met 6,8 procent krimpen en terugvallen tot het niveau van 1997. De veevoederprijzen zouden daardoor volgend jaar sterk kunnen stijgen, meldt het persbureau Bloomberg.

Het maïsareaal daarentegen zou in 2007 stijgen met 9,4 procent en het grootst zijn sinds 1949. Vooral de ontwikkeling van bio-ethanol speelt een rol bij de veranderende teeltkeuze. Marktanalisten voorspellen dat de prijs voor soja – als gevolg van het kleine areaal en de stijgende vraag – volgend jaar meer dan verdubbelt. Het gewas zou daardoor maïs gaan vervangen als de duurste grondstof op de beurs. In het kielzog van soja zouden ook de prijzen van koolzaad en palmolie aantrekken.

De verschuiving kan grote gevolgen hebben. In 1976 gebeurde iets soortgelijks in de Verenigde Staten. De prijsstijging van soja destijds leidde ertoe dat boeren in Brazilië en Argentinië op grote schaal soja gingen telen. Grote multinationals als Bunge en ADM erkennen deze mogelijke trend. De huidige signalen en prijsschommelingen kunnen Amerikaanse boeren echter nog doen besluiten om vóór de zaai van april hun bouwplan aan te passen. Ook Argentijnse en Braziliaanse telers zouden extra soja kunnen zaaien op basis van de huidige marktvoorspellingen.(KS)

via Vilt, 27 dec 2006

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Soybeans May Top 1970s High as Farmers Grow More Corn

By Joe Carroll and Jeff Wilson

Dec. 26, 2006 (Bloomberg) — Soybean prices may be headed for the biggest jump in three decades as farmers plant more fields with corn.

Growers in the U.S. are preparing to sow the fewest acres of soybeans in 10 years. At the same time, demand is rising, creating conditions that traders say may double this year’s average price of $5.98 a bushel and allow soybeans to replace corn as the best- performing farm commodity.

"The day of sub-$6 soybean prices is over,” said Dan Basse, president of AgResource Co. in Chicago. "Demand is growing too fast for production to keep pace.”

Consumers will feel the pinch because food makers including Paris-based Group Danone SA and Orrville, Ohio-based J.M. Smucker Co. will charge more for everything from peanut butter to frozen pizza to make up for costlier vegetable oil derived from soybeans, said Prudential Equity Group Inc. analyst John McMillin in New York.

Higher prices in the U.S. will boost costs globally because soybean futures on the Chicago Board of Trade are the benchmark from Sao Paulo to Tokyo. Canola and palm also will rise, increasing expenses for the world’s largest vegetable-oil producers, Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Bunge Ltd.

Trading Patterns

Soybeans, a staple in China for 3,000 years and the second- largest commodity export in Brazil, may almost double to $13 a bushel by the end of 2007 from $6.7425 now, said Terry Roggensack at Hartfield Trading Partners in Chicago, who accurately forecast a rally in 2003. The price surge in the 1970s prompted farmers in Brazil and Argentina to turn barley fields over to soybeans, creating an industry with $21 billion in annual sales.

The annual return on soybeans over the past two decades has lagged behind corn as U.S. demand surged for ethanol, a gasoline additive distilled from corn. Global soybean supplies grew faster than consumption as new drought-resistant seeds boosted production in the U.S. Midwest, and farmers in Brazil and Argentina expanded cultivation into wild grasslands.

Trading patterns already show investors are moving to soybeans from corn.

The number of outstanding corn contracts on the Chicago Board of Trade reached a record 1.43 million last month, and have since declined 3.5 percent to 1.38 million. The number of outstanding soybean contracts in that time rose as much as 9 percent from about 395,000 on Nov. 20 to a record 431,971 on Dec. 14, exchange data show.

Outperform Corn

Grain processors and speculators are betting soybeans, used in about 60 percent of the processed food consumed by developed nations, will outperform corn during the next 11 months. Soybeans for delivery in November are 8.8 percent more expensive than for January on the Chicago Board of Trade. The price of December corn next year is 9.2 percent less than for March.

The shift in U.S. crops next year will be similar to 1976. Farmers that year increased the land used for corn by 7.5 percent to 84.59 million acres, and reduced soybeans by 7.9 percent. Grain supplies at the time shrank after two years of harsh weather and rising imports by the former Soviet Union.

Before surging in 1976, the value of a bushel of soybeans in late 1975 was equal to 1.9 bushels of corn, down from a historical average the prior three decades of about 2.5. Twenty years later, that ratio dropped to 1.68 in June 1996, before a soybean rally that sent prices to a nine-year high in May 1997. Now, it takes 1.76 bushels of corn to buy one bushel of soybeans, less than in 1975.

Tighter Supply

"As more acres are diverted to corn, the picture for the soybean balance sheet gets tighter and tighter,” said William Plummer, who manages $106 million of commodity futures at Range Wise Inc. in Chicago. Plummer said he is "likely to triple my corn position and double beans,” probably early next year.

Not everyone is convinced there will be a soybean shortage. Brazil and Argentina, who together account for 43 percent of the world’s supply, may produce bigger crops, and a price rally before U.S. planting begins by April may encourage farmers to cancel plans to switch to corn. Soybeans are the world’s fourth-largest crops by acreage, after wheat, rice and corn.

"Lots of things can change between now and next spring,” said Li Ke, an analyst at the China National Grain & Oils Information Center in Beijing, an affiliate of the State Grain Administration. "If soybean prices rise to catch up with corn, farmers can always adjust planting intentions.”

Risky Conclusion

Dale Durchholz, a market analyst for AgriVisor Services Inc. in Bloomington, Illinois, said that "prices could follow the 1976 pattern, but drawing a conclusion from one point in history is very risky.” There are too many variables in weather that may affect next year’s crops, he said.

Soybeans rose 12 percent this year, lagging behind the 80 percent surge in corn, the biggest U.S. crop and the beneficiary of increased ethanol use. Soy-based diesel demand is rising in the U.S. and Europe, helped by government subsidies for alternative fuels meant to curb dependence on imported crude oil.

Craig Kief, who runs Incobrasa Industries Ltd.’s soybean- processing plant 90 miles south of Chicago, plans to triple his soybean purchases to 75,000 bushels a day in 2007. Kief is betting soy-based diesel will generate more profits than bottling vegetable oil for kitchen use.

Fewer Acres

Incobrasa began producing fuel from soybeans this month at a Gilman, Illinois, plant that shut in 2004. The Brazil-based company last year opened the factory, wedged between railroad tracks, corn fields and an interstate highway, after talks to sell it to Archer Daniels failed, Kief said.

Fewer acres of soybeans next May, followed by a spell of hot, dry weather in August as plants reach a sensitive phase of development, may lead to a collapse in production from the U.S., the world’s largest grower and exporter, Roggensack said. The harvest may decline as much as 17 percent from this year to 2.656 billion bushels, the smallest since 2003, he said.

"If we lose the amount of acres people are talking about to corn, the carryout after the next harvest would end up pretty tight,” he said.

Farmers in China, the world’s largest soybean importer, may also favor planting more corn than soybeans next spring if the gap between corn and soybean prices stays at the current level, said Hanver Li, managing director at Shanghai JC Intelligence Co., a company that advises international grain trading houses.

More Corn

Chinese soybean prices rose 10 percent in the past year, while corn has jumped more than 25 percent, Li said.

"Corn acreage will rise by 2 to 3 percent while the area sown to soybeans will decline by 3 to 5 percent,” Li said in a telephone interview, citing his company’s survey of farmers in northeast China, the country’s main soybean-growing region.

China will import more soybeans next year to feed hogs and chickens and produce cooking oil because demand will outstrip domestic supply, he said. Soybean imports may rise by 12 percent to 31.7 million tons in the year ending September 2007.

"Beans may well end up in the higher end of the historical range before the long term grain bull breathes its last breath,” said Brent Harris, who runs a $14 billion commodity fund at Pacific Investment Management in Newport Beach, California. "The underlying fundamentals of demand for biofuels and the building of more of these soybean-oil-using plants will continue to assert themselves.”

Tapping Inventories

To make up for lost production, grain processors would rely on stored supplies, cutting the U.S. inventory from a record 565 million bushels to an Aug. 31 forecast of 74 million before the 2007 harvest, the smallest in 34 years, Roggensack said.

U.S. farmers may cut soybean plantings by as much as 7.5 million acres to 68.1 million. Normal weather would yield 42 bushels an acre, for a total crop of 2.86 billion bushels. If that happens, unsold inventories after the 2007 harvest would fall 51 percent to about 275 million bushels, he said.

Growth in consumption of soybeans will exceed farm output for at least the next three years, said Nancy DeVore, an analyst at Bunge, the world’s largest oilseed processor. Corn prices have surged because global demand has exceeded production in six of the past seven years, government data show.

"The processors will pass on higher soybean costs,” said McMillin, whose recommendation on Archer Daniels produced the second-highest one-year return among analysts who follow the company. "This doesn’t help the Smuckers of the world.” He rates Archer Daniels "overweight” and Smucker "underweight.”

Planting Forecast

Record demand for crop-based fuels may boost prices this week, a Bloomberg survey showed. Seventy-five percent of 24 traders, farm advisers and grain merchants surveyed Dec. 21-22 urged investors to buy corn, which rose 4.1 percent last week, the eighth gain in the past nine weeks. Fifteen respondents forecast a rise in soybeans.

Farmers in parts of the Midwest haven’t seen corn prices this high during a December for three decades, and most will be unlikely to sell additional bushels until after seeds are successfully planted in April and May.

U.S. soybean production was valued at $16.9 billion in 2005, second only to corn, which will be planted on the largest area in almost six decades next year, commodity forecaster Informa Economics Inc. said in a report to clients Dec. 14.

Plantings of corn will jump 9.4 percent to 85.922 million acres, the most since 1949 and up 1 million acres from a forecast in November, said Memphis, Tennessee-based Informa, formerly known as Sparks Cos. Soybean acreage will plunge 6.8 percent to 70.434 million, the smallest since 1997.

"The switchover to more corn planting is going to tighten up soybean inventories dramatically,” said Stephen Platt, an analyst at Archer Financial Services Inc., a Chicago brokerage owned by Archer Daniels. "There’s pretty strong upside potential.”

Soybean futures for March delivery gained 12.25 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $6.865 a bushel today in Chicago, marking the biggest percentage gain since Nov. 1.

Corn for March climbed 4 cents, or 1 percent, to $3.88 a bushel. Prices earlier reached $3.89, the highest since Dec. 1.

To contact the reporters on this story: Joe Carroll in Chicago at ; Jeff Wilson in Chicago at .

Last Updated: December 26, 2006 17:09 EST