(New throughout; adds market reaction and China forecast)
* Record US corn crop means largest stocks since 2006
* 2012/13 US soy stocks/use ratio historically low 4.4
* Record global rice crop, world soy crop up 15 pct
* Soy futures up 1.9 pct, corn down on USDA data
* Big crops hinge on very favorable weather-Analyst
By Charles Abbott
WASHINGTON, May 10 A record U.S. corn crop this
fall will end two years of nail-biting tight supplies, the
government predicted on Thursday, while its forecasts for
lower-than-expected global stocks of wheat and soybeans may keep
food prices high.
The U.S. Agriculture Department's first estimates for this
year's harvest and next year's demand showed that domestic corn
stocks will surge from a near record low this year to a
seven-year high by September 2013, aided by expected record
yields this year as farmers sprinted to plant an early crop.
USDA had less bountiful outlooks for other supplies, with
domestic soybean inventories seen falling to 145 million bushels
for the 2012/13 year from 210 million this year, with a
stocks-to-use ratio "at a historically low 4.4 percent."
The 145 million is slightly more than a two-week supply.
Analysts had forecast 164 million bushels.
Futures prices soared 1.9 percent for new-crop soybeans, the
largest gain in 5-1/2 weeks at the Chicago Board of Trade.
New-crop corn, for delivery in December, fell by 1.4 percent to
$5.09-3/4 a bushel, the lowest price since March 2011.
The report threatens to extend a cycle of volatile prices,
with a shortage of one crop in one year giving way to a shortage
of another in the next. Food prices spiked in 2008 and have
remained high and volatile since then because of the razor-thin
stocks and huge demand globally, especially from a hungry China.
Although soybean prices have led the complex this year, some
analysts were still betting that corn -- the grain that's been
in greatest deficit -- would set the longer-term tone.
"The upshot is that corn is the locomotive that pulls the
grain train, and that engine is headed south," said Charlie
Sernatinger, analyst with ABN AMRO.
Graphics on USDA forecasts:
Record-large corn and rice crops are forecast worldwide,
with corn up 9 percent and rice up marginally. The wheat supply
would drop by 2 percent and soybeans stocks will rise by 9
percent but still not as much as traders expected. It would be
the sixth year in a row for record world corn production.
China, a negligible corn importer a year ago, is forecast to
become the No 4 importer in the new marketing year. USDA
estimated China will buy 7 million tonnes of corn, up from 5
million this year. Beijing also would buy 61 million tonnes of
soybeans, one-fourth of the world soy crop, USDA estimated, up
from this year's 56 million tonnes.
FLOOD OF CORN REQUIRES FAVORABLE WEATHER
"It's built on a very favorable weather scenario. It's not
out of question, but things could turn out differently," said
analyst Mark McMinimy of Guggenheim Partners after reviewing the
forecasts. "It's all prospective, as it always is at this time
of the year."
Besides the record U.S. crop, USDA foresees rebounds in
Ukraine and Argentina corn and a third consecutive record
Chinese corn crop.
Soybeans could be more plentiful than now forecast, McMinimy
said. High market prices may prompt U.S. farmers to plant more
land to the oilseed. A shift of 1 million acres would add 43
million bushels to the crop and mean more palatable end stocks.
USDA said mild weather, plentiful rainfall and an early
start to planting will result in big U.S. crops. It estimates
the corn yield at a record 166 bushels an acre, 2 bushels higher
than a USDA trend-line average, due to the favorable start to
the crop year. The soybean crop would be the third largest on
record with high yields offsetting a projected 1 percent drop in
plantings from 2011.
Even with a 9 percent increase in corn use, ending stocks
are forecast to more than double to 1.881 billion bushels, the
largest carryover since 2005/06 and 10 percent more than traders
Soybean production worldwide will hit 271.4 million tonnes,
up 15 percent from this year, as South America rebounds from
drought, USDA projected. Brazil should harvest a record 78
million tonnes, up 20 percent.
USDA projected an overall U.S. wheat harvest, including
spring-planted varieties, of 2.2 billion bushels, the most in
four years. It estimated the winter wheat crop, nearly ready for
harvest, at 1.7 billion bushels, up 13 percent from last year's
(Reporting By Charles Abbott; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)