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IGC on world grains in August: stocks down, maize down

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The International Grains Council (IGC) in its end-August 2011 Grain Market Report has said that world grains production is expected to rise significantly from last year’s reduced outturn, but the forecast is lowered from July due to a sharp cut in the US maize crop estimate.

IGC 2011 August - total grains

While a downward adjustment is also made to the 2011-12 consumption forecast, global end-of-season grain stocks are nevertheless placed lower than before, projected to decline by 4% from their estimated level at the start of the season. Total production is now forecast at 1,808m. tons, down by 9m. from the previous month but still significantly higher than in 2010-11 (1,748m.). While the wheat crop figure is raised by 3m. tons, to 677m. (651m.), the world maize production forecast is reduced by 10m. tons, to 849m. (824m.) because of the further decline in US yield prospects.

In view of the tightness in the US maize market, with prices likely to stay firm, also in relation to wheat, feed use of grain is placed 3m. tons lower than before, at 766m., but still up from the past year’s 749m. Global feed use of maize is trimmed by 4m. tons, but that of wheat is placed slightly higher than before, at a twenty-year peak of 125m. tons, reflecting ample availabilities of lower quality grades. With the reduction in the global production total only partly absorbed by a cut in the consumption forecast, the projection of world carryover stocks in 2011-12 is reduced by 5m. tons, to 342m. This would represent a drop of 16m. tons from the estimated carry-in level, mainly due to the expected decline in maize inventories.

[Tables: total grains supply and demand ; total grains trade ]

In particular, end-season stocks in the eight major exporters are projected to fall to 112m. tons, down from 128m. at the start of 2011-12 and from 170m. the year before. These would be the smallest since 2003-04. The global trade forecast for grains in 2011-12 is almost unchanged at 244m. tons, up 1m. from the year ended this June. Bigger than previously projected imports lift the wheat figure by 1.5m. tons, to 128.2m., but this is balanced by a reduction for maize trade, now placed at 92.7m. tons. The substantial recovery in Black Sea region supplies will result in a major shift back to this origin, especially for wheat, with the downturn in US maize exports also partly offset by expected record Ukraine shipments of this grain.

IGC wheat 2011 August

WHEAT: World wheat supply and demand are forecast to be broadly balanced in 2011-12, with a rise in production matched by higher use. With winter wheat harvests nearing completion in the northern hemisphere, better than expected results in the EU, CIS and China outweigh the somewhat reduced prospects in the US and Australia, and the forecast of world production is raised by 3m. tons, to 677m. (651m.).

[Table: Grains and oilseeds index ]

Much of the rise in supply compared with last month is absorbed by a further increase in projected feed wheat demand, contributing to a larger than normal year-on-year upturn in total world wheat consumption, to 678m. tons (657m.). The global carryover is expected to be broadly unchanged, placed 1m. tons higher than in the last Market Report, at 191m. However, stocks of the highest-protein milling wheats are expected to tighten, especially in the US and Canada, contributing to a 3.9m. ton fall in the combined carryover in the eight major exporters, to 64.6m. This is up by 2.0m. tons from last month’s figure, including larger projections for the EU, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

IGC corn 2011 August

MAIZE (CORN): The US crop forecast is cut sharply from last month, but production prospects in the southern hemisphere have improved and the 2011-12 maize crop is still projected to be the largest on record at 849m. tons (824m.). Demand is expected to increase, but at a slower pace. Growth in feed use will be limited mainly to developing countries, with meat output in most industrialised nations likely to increase relatively slowly due to high feed prices and flat demand.

Growing supplies of competitively-priced lower grade wheat will limit demand for maize, while use of distillers dried grains (DDG) will also remain high. After rising sharply in recent years, maize used for the manufacture of fuel ethanol is forecast to show very little growth, with the figure for the US projected to be unchanged from 2010-11. EU import needs are seen lower than before and, with some buyers in Asia likely to further boost feed wheat purchases, the 2011-12 world trade forecast is trimmed by 1.4m. tons, to 92.7m., almost unchanged from last year.

IGC rice 2011 August

RICE: World rice production (milled basis) in 2011-12 is projected to increase by 2%, to a record 457m. tons. This assumes larger outturns in Far East Asia, including in India, where prospects for this year’s kharif crop are generally favourable. Increased supplies should also enable a further rise in that country’s consumption, with world use forecast to expand to an all-time peak of 457m. tons. With global production and consumption expected to be broadly in balance, the 2011-12 carryover is set to show little overall change, at a nine-year high of 99m. tons. Within the total, inventories in the five major exporters are expected to climb to 30.9m. tons (29.2m.). World trade in calendar 2012 is projected to expand by 1%, to a record 32.2m. tons, with larger shipments to several countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

[Tables: rice supply and demand ; rice trade ]

IGC soyabean 2011 August

SOYABEANS: World soyabean production in 2011-12 is projected at 258.1m. tons, a decline of 3% from last year, mostly reflecting prospects for a smaller US outturn. Solid demand from Asia (China) will spur further growth in world trade in 2011-12, forecast to rise to a record 96.4m. tons (92.5m.). Global soyameal trade is placed at 60.3m. tons (58.3m.), the year-on-year expansion resulting from bigger purchases by the EU and Far East Asia.

[Table: soyabeans trade ]

Written by makanaka

September 1, 2011 at 11:42

Higher agriculture commodity prices here to stay, says major OECD-FAO report for 2011-2020

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Higher agriculture commodity prices here to stay – this is the overall message of the OECD-FAO Agriculture Outlook 2011-20. I will add material to this post from the main report. There is a database attached to the report which will also yield spreadsheets, to be posted here in the weeks ahead.

The OECD-FAO Agriculture Outlook 2011-20 has said that a good harvest in the coming months should push commodity prices down from the extreme levels seen earlier this year. However, the Outlook said that over the coming decade real prices for cereals could average as much as 20% higher and those for meats as much as 30% higher, compared to 2001-10. The press release has more of the big picture message from the Outlook.

Some key questions and concerns have been mentioned. One of these is: what is driving price volatility? The Outlook takes a look at the key forces driving price volatility, which create uncertainty and risk for producers, traders, consumers and governments. About a period of higher commodity prices, the Outlook said commodity prices will fall from their 2010-11 levels, as markets respond to these higher prices and the opportunities for increased profitability that they afford. In real terms, agricultural commodity prices are likely to remain on a higher plateau during the next decade compared to the previous decade.

All commodity prices in nominal terms will average higher to 2020 than in the previous decade. In real terms, prices are anticipated to average up to 20% higher for cereals and 50% higher for some meats, compared to the previous decade. On the forecasts of net agricultural production, global agricultural production is projected to grow at 1.7% annually on average compared to 2.6% in the previous decade. Slower growth is expected for most crops, especially oilseeds and coarse grains, while the livestock sector stays close to recent trends.

Where biofuels and agricultural outputs are mentioned, the Outlook has said the use of agricultural output as feedstock for biofuels will continue its robust growth, largely driven by biofuel mandates and support policies. By 2020, 12% of the global production of coarse grains will be used to produce ethanol compared to 11% on average over the 2008-10 period.

[The OECD-FAO Agriculture Outlook 2011-20 has a dedicated website here.]

[The OECD-FAO Agriculture Outlook 2011-20 Summary is available in English, Français, Español, Chinese, Português and Russian.]

A Nepalese vendor sells food from a roadside stall in Bhaktapur, some 12 kilometers southeast of Kathmandu. Photo: Foreign Policy/Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images

Key points from the summary are:

(1) Commodity prices rose sharply again in August 2010 as crop production shortfalls in key producing regions and low stocks reduced available supplies, and resurging economic growth in developing and emerging economies underpinned demand. A period of high volatility in agricultural commodity markets has entered its fifth successive year. High and volatile commodity prices and their implications for food insecurity are clearly among the important issues facing governments today. This was well reflected in the discussions at the G20 Summit in Seoul in November, 2010, and in the proposals for action being developed for consideration at its June 2011 meeting of Agriculture Ministers in Paris.

(2) This Outlook is cautiously optimistic that commodity prices will fall from their 2010-11 levels, as markets respond to these higher prices and the opportunities for increased profitability that they afford. Harvests this year are critical, but restoring market balances may take some time. Until stocks can be rebuilt, risks of further upside price volatility remain high. This Outlook maintains the view expressed in recent editions that agricultural commodity prices in real terms are likely to remain on a higher plateau during the next ten years compared to the previous decade. Prolonged periods of high prices could make the achievement of global food security goals more difficult, putting poor consumers at a higher risk of malnutrition.

Even in the midst of violence in Ivory Coast, locals shopped at markets in Abidjan’s Koumassi district. Photo: Foreign Policy/Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images

(3) Higher commodity prices are a positive signal to a sector that has been experiencing declining prices expressed in real terms for many decades and are likely to stimulate the investments in improved productivity and increased output needed to meet the rising demands for food. However, supply response is conditioned by the relative cost of inputs while the incentives provided by higher international prices are not always passed through to producers due to high transactions costs or domestic policy interventions. In some key producing regions, exchange rate appreciation has also affected competitiveness of their agricultural sectors, limiting production responses.

(4) There are signs that production costs are rising and productivity growth is slowing. Energy related costs have risen significantly, as have feed costs. Resource pressures, in particular those related to water and land, are also increasing. Land available for agriculture in many traditional supply areas is increasingly constrained and production must expand into less developed areas and into marginal lands with lower fertility and higher risk of adverse weather events. Substantial further investments in productivity enhancement are needed to ensure the sector can meet the rising demands of the future.

Exposé of false carbon accounting for biofuels

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Cover of a brochure on a 'biorefinery' project in Sweden

Cover of a brochure on a 'biorefinery' project in Sweden

False carbon accounting for biofuels that ignores emissions in landuse change is a major driver of global natural habitat destruction, incurring carbon debts that take decades and centuries to repay; at the same time, the emissions of nitrous oxide from fertilizer use has been greatly underestimated, says a damning new briefing from the Institute of Science in Society (I-SIS), Britain.

A team of thirteen scientists led by Timothy Searchinger at Princeton University, New Jersey, in the United States, pointed to a “far-reaching” flaw in carbon emissions accounting for biofuels in the Kyoto Protocol and in climate legislation. It leaves out CO2 emission from tailpipes and smokestacks when bioenergy is used, and most seriously of all, it does not count emissions from land use change when biomass is grown and harvested, says the I-SIS briefing.

“The team maintained that bioenergy reduces greenhouse emission only if the growth and harvesting of the biomass for energy captures carbon above and beyond what would be sequestered anyway, and offsets the emissions from energy use. This additional carbon may result from land management changes that increase plant uptake or from the use of biomass that would otherwise decompose rapidly.”

Graph from World Energy Outlook 2010 titled 'Ranges of well-to-wheels emission savings relative to gasoline and diesel'.

Graph from World Energy Outlook 2010 titled 'Ranges of well-to-wheels emission savings relative to gasoline and diesel'.

“The worst case is when the bioenergy crops displace forest or grassland, the carbon released from soils and vegetation, plus lost future sequestration generate huge carbon debts against the carbon the crops absorb, which could take decades and hundreds of years to repay.”

The work of Searchinger, referred to by I-SIS, has been mentioned in connection with this false accounting as long as a year ago. For instance, the Industrial Biotechnology and Climate Change blog had noted in 2009 November:

The Science Insider blog last week hosted an interesting debate between Tim Searchinger, Princeton visiting scholar, and John Sheehan, of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, regarding the recent policy proposal in the pages of Science by Searchinger et al. to ‘fix’ the carbon accounting of biomass for bioenergy and biofuels in U.S. legislation and the successor to the Kyoto protocol, by giving credit only to biomass that can be managed in such a way as to sequester additional atmospheric carbon in the soil. As Searchinger puts it in the recent debate, “bioenergy only reduces greenhouse gases if it results from additional plant growth or in some other way uses carbon that would not otherwise be stored.”

Cover of the World Energy Outlook 2010 report, International Energy Agency

Cover of the World Energy Outlook 2010 report, International Energy Agency

Also pertinent is a short section on biofuels and emissions in the World Energy Outlook 2010, which has recently been released by the International Energy Agency. “Biofuels are derived from renewable biomass feedstocks, but biofuels are not emission-free on a life-cycle basis,” says WEO2010. There is keen debate about the level of emissions savings that can be attributed to the use of biofuels and, more generally, to biomass. Greenhouse-gas emissions can occur at any step of the biofuels supply chain. Besides emissions at the combustion stage, greenhouse-gas emissions arise from fossil-energy use in the construction and operation of the biofuels conversion plant. In addition, the cultivation of biomass requires fertilisers, the use of machinery and irrigation, all of which also generate emissions.”

The short section is part of Chapter 12 – titled ‘Outlook for Renewable Energy’ – of the massive tome, and the section on Biofuels emissions is found in pages 372-374. As the WEO must perforce sound upbeat about all forms and sources of energy, it ventures, “If appropriate feedstocks and process conditions are chosen, biofuels can offer significant net greenhouse-gas emissions savings over conventional fossil fuels”. That’s a big “if” there.

“This is particularly the case with sugar cane ethanol, as much less energy is required to convert the biomass to ethanol.” In a laboratory perhaps, but as there are as many ways of converting sugarcane as there are types of cane, it would be difficult to say, wouldn’t it?  “But variations are large and calculating average emissions savings is complex.” So they are, so it is.

After such kerfuffle, the WEO2010 does get down to brass tacks: “Using land for biofuels production that was previously covered with carbon-rich forest or where the soil carbon content is high can release considerable amounts of greenhouse gases, and even lead to a ‘carbon debt’. In the worst cases, this debt could take hundreds or even thousands of years to recover via the savings in emissions by substituting biofuels for fossil fuels.”

And there you have it, in black and white, from the venerable International Energy Agency itself.