By Kirk Maltais
--Corn for May delivery fell 0.8% to $3.46 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade on Friday, amid projections that the closure of ethanol plants will cut into domestic corn demand.
--Wheat for May delivery rose 0.4% to $5.71 1/4 a bushel.
--Soybeans for May delivery rose 0.1% to $8.81 1/2 a bushel.
Ethanol Into The Ether: As ethanol demand evaporates, biofuel makers are likely to need a lot less corn this year. "Right now we could be looking at 350 million to 400 million bushels of lost demand for 2019-2020 corn," said Craig Turner of Daniels Trading. "The big concern is those bushels go right back into the ending stocks on the balance sheet." Prior to coronavirus hitting the U.S. market, the USDA projected ending stocks of 2019/20 corn at 1.89 billion bushels, a decline of roughly 400,000 bushels from the previous year.
Wheat Speculation: Russia is considering limiting wheat and other grain exports for three months in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reported. Traders said the proposed limit of 7 million metric tons for April through June was about what they expected exports to be before the quota, but they are concerned that, based on Russia's history, more restrictions could follow, according to the Reuters report. Traders of U.S. wheat speculated this could boost demand for American grain.
Harvest Time: Argentine farmers have started harvesting soybeans, completing work on 4.6% of the area planted, according to the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange. Rain is slowing some work, and productivity has been less than expected in some areas, the Exchange said. If the trend of lower productivity continues, the Exchange said it might cut its forecast of a harvest of 52 million metric tons. Argentina is the world's third-biggest soybean producer, after Brazil and the U.S., and the USDA has forecast an Argentine harvest of 54 million tons for the current season.
Corn-ucopia: Independent groups such as Indigo Ag and Allendale are projecting 1 million more planted corn acres than the USDA. Indigo cites the futures price ratio between corn and soybeans in February and March as the main predictor. At a time when ethanol demand is waning, any increase in corn production would be bearish for the futures market.
Coronavirus: Quarantine orders in the U.S. to curb the coronavirus are expected to cut ethanol consumption by more than 50%, said Pacific Ethanol CEO Neil Koehler in an earnings call. As a result, Pacific Ethanol is cutting production by 60% by the end of March, Mr. Koehler said.
--The USDA releases its weekly grain export inspections data at 11 a.m. ET Monday.
--Conagra Brands Inc. reports third-quarter earnings before the market opens Tuesday.
--The USDA releases its prospective plantings report at noon ET Tuesday.
--The USDA releases its quarterly grains stocks report at noon ET Tuesday.
(Jeffrey T. Lewis contributed to this article.)
Write to Kirk Maltais at email@example.com