Estimates by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for corn and soybean plantings at the end of March missed analyst expectations, sending futures prices for both commodities up sharply.
Smaller-than-expected acreage for the two main cash crops in the United States will likely increase concerns about global food and animal feed supplies after importers and domestic processors loaded up on grain and oilseeds supplies earlier this year.
Farmers plan to sow 91.144 million acres (36.885 million hectares) with corn this year, the most since 2016, and 87.600 million acres with soybeans, the most since 2018, USDA said in its first official, survey-based look at 2021 U.S. crop area.
U.S. soybean stocks are projected to shrink to a mere 9-1/2 days’ supply ahead of the next harvest, according to the latest USDA forecast, while end-of-season corn supplies were seen at a seven-year low.
“We just can’t afford that bean acreage number,” said Jim Gerlach, president of U.S. broker A/C Trading. “We’ve got to pull some acres out of a hat somewhere.”
Analysts had been expecting the report to show that farmers intended to plant 93.208 million acres of corn and 89.996 million acres of soybeans, according to the average of estimates gathered in a Reuters poll.
Wheat plantings beat expectations at 46.358 million acres, up from a trade estimate of 44.971 million acres, however.
In a separate report, USDA said soybean stocks as of March 1 thinned to the lowest level in five years while corn stocks hit a seven-year low. The agency polled about 8,300 commercial grain facilities and about 78,900 farmers in the last survey-based estimate of supplies ahead of the spring planting season.
On- and off-farm soybean stocks were estimated at 1.564 billion bushels as of March 1, down from 2.255 billion at the same point last year, the USDA said in a quarterly grain stocks report. Corn stocks were pegged at 7.701 billion bushels, down from 7.952 billion a year earlier.
Analysts surveyed ahead of the report expected soybean stocks, on average, at 1.534 billion bushels and corn stocks at 7.767 billion bushels.