Farm Futures logo

Weekly Grain Movement: Corn outperforms trade expectations

Soybean and wheat volume relatively disappointing, in contrast.

Ben Potter, Senior editor

December 4, 2023

3 Min Read
Corn getting loaded onto export barge
Getty Images/sandsun

USDA’s newest set of grain export inspection data, out Monday morning and covering the week through November 30, showed some unexpected results for traders to digest. Corn turned in the best performance, more than doubling the prior week’s tally and moving above the entire range of analyst estimates. But soybeans and wheat both saw moderate week-over-week declines and failed to meet even the low end of trade guesses.

Corn export inspections jumped to 45.6 million bushels last week. That was also above the entire set of analyst estimates, which ranged between 13.8 million and 35.4 million bushels. Cumulative totals for the 2023/24 marketing year are still trending moderately above last year’s pace so far, with 33.2 million bushels.

Mexico was the No. 1 destination for U.S. corn export inspections last week, with 14.3 million bushels. China, Colombia, Japan and Taiwan rounded out the top five.

“I think the most surprising part of today’s Export Inspections report was the large volume of corn shipped to China out of the Pacific Northwest last week. It followed several large shipments of U.S. corn to Mexico and Colombia,” notes Farm Futures grain market analyst Jacqueline Holland. “That is the largest weekly volume of corn shipped out of the U.S. AND the largest weekly corn shipment to China since early June. Peak corn export season typically ranges between late February, peaking between mid-March and mid-June. So this is a very atypical uptick in shipping volumes and is driving corn prices higher.”

Sorghum export inspections faded noticeably lower week-over-week to 4.6 million bushels. That grain is largely bound for China, although Mexico and Japan are also accounting for a small percentage of that total. Cumulative totals for the 2023/24 marketing year are still more than double of last year’s pace, with 42.7 million bushels.

Soybean export inspections were disappointing after reaching 40.7 million bushels last week. Analysts were expecting a larger haul, offering trade guesses that ranged between 45.9 million and 73.5 million bushels. Cumulative totals for the 2023/24 marketing year are still moderately below last year’s pace so far, with 686.8 million bushels.

China was the No. 1 destination for U.S. soybean export inspections last week, with 15.0 million bushels. Spain, Germany, Mexico and the Netherlands filled out the top five.

“Soybean volumes tapered off last week. China remains a top buyer, relying heavily on volumes shipped out of the Pacific Northwest,” Holland says. “But the smaller 2023 U.S. soybean crop means that there are fewer bushels to export this year, so it’s not a surprise that cumulative soybean shipments (687M bu.) so far in the 2023/24 marketing year are 14% behind year-ago paces.”

The market has largely priced in smaller export volumes, though, Holland adds.

“So far, the U.S. has already shipped out 39% of its expected soybean export volumes for the 2023/24 marketing year,” she says. “I think markets are waiting for potential harvest delays for Brazil’s soybean crop in late January and early February before export demand drives up prices further.”

Wheat export inspections were lackluster, only reaching 6.9 million bushels last week. That was moderately below the prior week’s pace and lower than the entire set of trade guesses, which ranged between 8.3 million and 12.9 million bushels. Cumulative totals for the 2023/24 marketing year remain moderately below last year’s pace so far, with 305.9 million bushels.

Japan was the No. 1 destination for U.S. wheat export inspections last week, with 1.9 million bushels. The Philippines, Jamaica, South Korea and Mexico rounded out the top five.

“Wheat export volumes continue to struggle, but even with smaller weekly volumes reported by USDA-FAS today, markets were encouraged higher this morning by a USDA announcement of a new soft red winter wheat sale to China,” Holland says. “That was not included in today’s Export Inspections dataset.”

Click here for more highlights from the latest USDA grain export inspection report, which covers the week through November 30.

Read more about:


About the Author(s)

Ben Potter

Senior editor, Farm Futures

Senior Editor Ben Potter brings two decades of professional agricultural communications and journalism experience to Farm Futures. He began working in the industry in the highly specific world of southern row crop production. Since that time, he has expanded his knowledge to cover a broad range of topics relevant to agriculture, including agronomy, machinery, technology, business, marketing, politics and weather. He has won several writing awards from the American Agricultural Editors Association, most recently on two features about drones and farmers who operate distilleries as a side business. Ben is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like