Smart grain marketers are closely watching currency shifts

Futures prices holding despite high Dollar value

Grains
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Grain growers are closely watching unfolding crop conditions in Northern Hemisphere.

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The Australian Dollar ended up sharply last week, closing in the United States on Friday night at US78.67 cents.

This is the highest closing value for the Australian Dollar since February 2018.

The currency is now closing-in on its highest levels for the past six years.

This has worked to keep the Australian Dollar value of Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) futures on the defensive, despite ongoing gains in underlying futures.

Values are still above $300 per tonne, but are trading more freely in the $300-$305/t range than above the $315/t seen at the start of February.

The Australian Dollar value of CBOT futures is a reasonable surrogate for international prices for other countries as well.

Global wheat prices are high, but are not reaching excessively high levels - particularly in comparison to alternative crops.

As a result, we continue to get reports that plantings of spring wheat in various Northern Hemisphere countries might not be as big as expected this year. Growers maybe shifting to more lucrative options, such as canola, soybeans, corn and - in some cases - spring barley.

When it comes to where acres go, it is the relative pricing compared to alternatives that count.

Across a long period of time, Northern Hemisphere farmers have been drifting away from wheat and into alternatives - particularly in North America.

In Australia, the alternatives to wheat are limited in a lot of regions.

But we can expect to see canola get a good run in its own right, or as a break-crop -particularly if our prices follow those of Canadian prices and are well above $600/t at planting time.

Canadian prices are being driven to near-record levels, as stocks from last year's smaller harvest are being driven down to seven-year lows and prices are at 13-year highs - and on the way to a new record.

Meanwhile, CBOT futures remain volatile and were trading through a range of US20c/bushel for most days during last week.

The volatility is being driven by the extreme cold that swept through the US and potentially caused winterkill damage.

And that is the point - in terms of "potentially" causing damage.

In previous years, the market has taken on-board the risk of winterkill, only to find that in the end there was limited impact.

No one wants to get caught again on that one. But this year, the cold has been severe and some regions entered winter with crops not in good shape.

It is the uncertainty of the risk itself that is causing the volatility, and there is more cold weather forecast before we start to see the bulk of US winter crops begin to emerge from dormancy.

In early areas in Texas, where crop heading has started, significant damage is expected. But these areas are limited.

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