U.S. oats prices under pressure

by Laura Lloyd
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KANSAS CITY — Nearby oats futures prices have fallen 15% in the last three months and have been trading below $3 a bu since Jan. 9. The declines primarily reflected significant improvements in rail logistics compared with last winter, flat demand and bearishness fed by the downward price trends in corn, wheat and soybean futures amid ample world supplies, according to market observers.

The ongoing strength in the U.S. dollar compared with currencies in the European Union and Canada, the principal import origins for oats for the United States, exerted pressure on oats futures prices, according to a Jan. 22 report from the London-based International Grains Council.

Also a factor in current oats futures’ weakness was a 118% year-over-year increase in oats stored in commercial warehouses declared regular for delivery on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, said an oats market industry veteran.

In its most recent report, the CME indicated as of Jan. 16 120,000 bus of oats were stored in Chicago, 3,541,000 bus in Duluth-Superior and 9,748,000 bus in Minneapolis for a total of 13,409,000 bus. For the same date a year ago, the CME said 173,000 bus were stored in Chicago, 1,265,000 bus in Duluth-Superior and 4,718,000 bus in Minneapolis for a total of 6,156,000 bus.

Among forecasts made by the I.G.C. for oats in 2014-15 in its January report included a decline in world production of an estimated 5% compared with 2013-14 because of reduced area and yields in the E.U., Canada and Australia, a decline in world use of oats of about 1% because of well-priced feed grain substitutes, a decline in global carryover of 5%, and a 5% decline in projected world trade because of weaker U.S. demand. Canadian output in 2014 was estimated at 2.9 million tonnes, 25% lower than in 2013.  The U.S. crop in 2014 was 1 million tonnes, up 8% from a year earlier.

 Global food use of oats in 2014-15 was expected to rise 5% from the previous year to 4.8 million tonnes because of population growth and the increasing popularity of oats-based breakfast cereals, the I.G.C. said.
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