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News Flash: May 1, 2014


Agriculture Still Feels Winter’s Chill

The freezing weather of this winter will likely put a chill on the profits of U.S. agricultural companies. Freezing temperatures bogged down U.S. railroads, worsening capacity problems caused by grain and ethanol’s competition with crude oil for space on trains. Now the transportation problems may lead to fertilizer shortages, some fear. Meanwhile, in the Northern regions of the US, some farmers are delaying their planting of corn and soybeans because of the prospect of more unfavorable weather. Wall Street Journal

Saskatchewan wins oilseed trade challenge against Quebec

Saskatchewan has won the oilseed trade challenge it filed against Quebec in January. Saskatchewan brought the dispute to a resolution panel established under the pan-Canadian Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT). The challenge questioned Quebec’s restrictions that prevented the sale of certain margarines, coffee whiteners and dessert toppings in the province. Saskatchewan was supported by Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia in the dispute which centered on the percentage of canola oils permitted in these products. The Saskatchewan government believed Quebec was restricting trade of those products and was trying to protect its own industry. The AIT panel sided with Saskatchewan and stated that parts of Quebec’s Food Products Act violated trade commitments under AIT articles and ordered the offending sections to be brought into compliance by the end of the year.Quebec has stated it will appeal the decision. The appeal process could take up to seven months. Global News (Canada)


Corn, Soybeans Drop as Warm U.S. Weather May Boost Planting Pace

Corn fell while soybeans headed for the biggest decline in seven weeks on speculation that planting in the U.S. will accelerate as the weather turns warmer and drier. The central and southern Corn Belt will be mostly dry until at least May 8, and higher temperatures early next week will help dry out wet soils so farmers can seed crops. While corn planting has been delayed in recent weeks because of rain and melting snow, farmers are just starting to sow soybeans, and fieldwork is progressing near the normal pace, USDA data show. Corn futures for July delivery fell 1.2% to $5.1275 a bushel at 12:05 p.m. on the Chicago Board of Trade, heading for the biggest drop since April 21. Prices touched $5.0625, the lowest since April 22. Soybean futures for July delivery month declined 2.6% to $14.7325 a bushel, heading for the biggest drop since March 10. Both commodities rose more than 3% last month after wet, cold Midwest weather delayed planting, tensions in Ukraine threatened grain shipments, and U.S. oilseed stockpiles tightened. Bloomberg


U.S. grains: Corn near three-week high on slow planting

U.S. corn futures rose more than one per cent on Tuesday for their third straight session of gains and neared a three-week high as rains and cold temperatures prevented farmers from planting the Midwest, analysts said. Soybeans also climbed at the Chicago Board of Trade as speculative investors made bullish bets due to the adverse weather conditions in the United States even as crop-friendly rainfall fell elsewhere in the world. Reuters


Palm Oil Futures Retreat

Malaysian palm oil futures slipped to a near three-week low on Wednesday, tracking volatile soyoil markets overseas. Cargo surveyor Intertek Testing Services reported that exports of Malaysia’s palm oil products rose 1.3pc to 1,220,882 tonnes in April compared with a month earlier, as higher imports from the world’s top edible oil consumers India and China offset the lower demand in Europe. But market players say palm oil demand will need to rise faster to lift prices, which dropped 0.4pc in April, its second straight monthly fall. The benchmark July contract on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives fell to 2,615 ringgit, the lowest since April 11, in late Wednesday trade, before settling at 2,622 ringgit ($804) per tonne by the day’s close, down 0.5pc. Total traded volumes stood at 36,572 lots of 25 tonnes, above the average 35,000 lots. The US soyoil contract for July fell 0.6pc in late Asian trade, while the most active September soybean oil contract on the Dalian Commodities Exchange was nearly flat. Reuters

Labour crunch hurts Malaysian palm oil growers as Indonesians stay home

A slump in the number of Indonesian workers applying for jobs in Malaysia’s palm oil sector is worsening a labor crunch that industry players say is taking a heavy toll on the export earnings of the world’s second-largest grower of the tropical oil. Malaysia has long relied on plantation workers from neighbouring Indonesia to harvest fresh fruit bunches from oil palm trees that can grow up to 20 metres (66 feet) tall – jobs that are proving hard to replace with mechanization. But the number of Indonesians willing to leave their homes and families for

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the grueling work is dwindling due to higher wages at home and rapid urbanization. Indonesian applicants for jobs in Malaysia’s palm oil sector plunged to 38,000 in 2013 from more than 120,000 in each of the previous two years. Industry officials and analysts estimate that planters lose up to 5-10 percent of their fruit each year due to labour shortages, cutting Malaysia’s total export revenues by about 2.5 billion ringgit ($766 million) annually. In 2013, Malaysia’s palm oil exports dipped to 45.27 billion ringgit ($13.85 billion), its lowest since 2010, from 52.99 billion ringgit a year before. Faced with a labour shortage, Malaysian planters face an unpalatable choice between paying more to hire and keep workers – hurting their already thin profit margins – or cutting harvesting rounds and leaving fruits to rot. About 80 percent of Malaysia’s palm oil workforce are Indonesians. A Malaysia-based inventor whose company specializes in labour-saving devices in the palm industry told Reuters his team is working on a mechanical cutter for trees above 8 meters tall that may be ready in the next three years.”If this works, it can increase productivity by about 100-200 percent. So far we have had some drawbacks, but we are still doing a lot of research and development,” said the inventor who did not want to be identified. The cutter would still have to be operated by a worker. Reuters


Winter canola needing rain to hit yield goals

Although the Southwest winter canola crop appears to be in good condition after a cold, dry winter, a lack of significant moisture since it broke dormancy this spring concerns growers and industry observers. The crop still has potential to make good yields, says Gene Neuens, oilseed field representative for Producers Cooperative Oil Mill, Oklahoma City. But it needs rain and if a good rain doesn’t come soon, the crop will begin to drop the seed pods. As late as it is in the growing season, it may be too late to regenerate any seed pods if drought causes

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the crop to drop them instead of having them to fill and mature.” Recent rains have been spotty, with one inch falling in scattered, limited areas. In other locations, he said, less than one inch has fallen, but this precipitation has been scattered as well.” Before the end of this week, Neuens said, all of the crops growing in western Oklahoma, including canola, will need at least a one-inch rain. Crushers are due to start crushing canola seed to produce biofuels and high grade cooking oil, Neuens said. Southwest Farm Press