November 18, 2008

Slow pace of US corn harvest continues


More than a fifth of the US corn crop remains in the field, while the soy harvest remains behind slightly schedule but is nearing completion, the US Department of Agriculture said Monday (November 17) in its weekly crop progress report.


Dry, cold weather is likely to help producers with their fieldwork this week, as concerns grow about possible storm damage to the corn crop as winter descends on the Midwest, analysts said.


Winter wheat planting, meanwhile, continues its strong start, with quality and emergence ratings up year over year, according to the USDA.


The US corn harvest was 78 percent complete as of Sunday, up from 71 percent last week but down from the five-year average of 94 percent, the USDA said. Analysts had expected the completed harvest to exceed 80 percent.


"I'd have to say 78 percent is a little supportive," said Jerry Gidel, analyst with North America Risk Management Services.


Joe Victor, analyst with Allendale, said the numbers were not a big surprise. Much of the Corn Belt received precipitation last week.


The problem, Victor said, is that several states - Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin - still have a lot of crop to be harvested. All of those states have at least 30 percent of the crop remaining in the field. Victor said the longer the crop remains in the field, the greater the change of a wet snow storm that could knock down the crop, potentially making it impossible to harvest.


"So that's something that's still very much a concern for us," Victor said.


North Dakota had only harvested 33 percent of its corn crop, compared to an average of 88 percent, and South Dakota had harvested 59 percent, down from the average of 91 percent.


In Iowa, the country's top corn-growing state, farmers cut 70 percent of their corn, up 8 percentage points from the previous week. Iowa's progress lags the 96 percent harvested at this time last year, and the average of 95 percent.


Harvest was 88 percent complete in Illinois, down from 100 percent in 2007 and the average of 98 percent. Indiana's harvest was 93 percent complete, down from 97 percent last year, but ahead of the state's 92 percent five-year average.


The continued slow harvest has prompted some support, but has not been a focus of the market recently.


"If it's not, it should be," Victor said.


The US soy harvest is 95 percent complete, compared to 98 percent last year and the average of 96 percent, the USDA said.


Analysts had expected harvest to be 96 percent to 97 percent complete. They said the soy numbers would have little effect on the market.


With the harvest mostly finished, the focus of the market is turning from the crop to demand, Victor said.


In Iowa, 98 percent of the soy crop was harvested, compared to 99 percent last year and the average of 100 percent.


In Illinois, harvest was 100 percent complete, same as last year and up from the average of 99 percent. Harvest was 98 percent complete in Indiana, compared to 100 percent last year and the average of 99 percent.


Most states are near or ahead of schedule. An exception is Missouri, where 83 percent of the crop is harvested, compared to 96 percent last year and the average of 92 percent.


The USDA said 66 percent of the winter wheat crop was rated good to excellent, down from 68 percent last week but above the 45 percent from the same time last year.


Although the good-to-excellent rating dropped slightly, the crop is still progressing nicely, Victor said.


"We still have the ability to have crop quality for winter wheat that's significantly better than the five-year average," he said.


In Kansas, the top hard red winter wheat-producing state, 71 percent of the crop was rated good to excellent, compared to 78 percent last week.


Gidel said cloudy weather during the past week slowed winter wheat progress.


The USDA said 88 percent of the US winter wheat crop had emerged, up from 83% last week and in line with the average of 88 percent.


Winter wheat plantings were 96 percent complete, slightly below trade estimates. Plantings were up from 94 percent last week and in line with the 96 percent average.


Hard red winter wheat is used to make bread.


In Kansas, 91 percent of the crop was emerged, up from 90 percent last year, but down from the average of 93 percent.


Kansas' crop was 97 percent planted, compared to 100 percent in 2007, and below the average of 99 percent.

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