Corn Rationing Needs to Begin

Fran Howard

The corn market is extremely tight heading into the New Year, and analysts expect short supplies and heavy use to keep upward pressure on corn prices in 2011.  

“The corn market has one job and one job only—to go high enough to make people stop using the product,” says Ryan Turner, risk management consultant for FCStone, Kansas City. “We are past the point of encouraging more supply.” Turner predicts 2011 corn futures prices will exceed 2008 highs. “I don’t know if it will happen in January or June, but it will happen,” he says.

Soaring corn prices will slice into demand, with corn exports expected to fall first followed by feed usage. Analysts anticipate the cattle industry to begin rationing earlier than other livestock sectors due to poor margins, but rationing in poultry, hog, and dairy will be close behind. “It will be very painful,” Turner adds.
USDA’s latest World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) put the carryout for the 2010-11 U.S. corn crop at 832 million bushels, less than half the previous year’s carryout of 1.7 billion bushels. USDA pegs the average U.S. farm price for the 2010-11 crop at $4.80 to $5.60/bu. World supplies have also tightened: USDA’s latest estimate for world ending stocks for the 2010-11 crop is 130 million metric tons, a nearly 12 percent drop from the previous year’s 147 million metric tons.
Looking ahead to the 2011-12 crop, Chad Hart, agricultural economist with Iowa State University, calculates the full cost to grow corn in Iowa will be $4.25 to $4.50/bu., but revenues will be more than $5/bu., leaving at least a 50-cent-per-bushel margin. “That’s a really good margin, similar to 2007-08, when the first big push in ethanol occurred,” says Hart.

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