Ingredient price weakness offers rare opportunity

by Josh Sosland
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Josh Sosland

Wheat futures remained range bound near contract and multiyear lows with the Kansas City December contract hovering near contract lows around the $4 a bu mark, almost $1 below the price a year earlier. Reflecting sizable 2016 production and the prospect of a significantly larger wheat carryover in 2017 than this year, the wheat price swoon has been further nudged by pressure on corn and soybeans.

Actually commodity pricing has been moving lower for about five years, and the depth of ingredient price weakness is not truly captured by a “mere” $1 a bu slump in wheat prices. The baking ingredient indexes, calculated each week by this publication to gauge overall ingredient costs for various grain-based foods, put pan bread last week at an index number of 147.3, down from 154.7 a year earlier and the lowest mid-October figure in more than a decade. At 147.3, the pan bread index is down 38% from the peak of 236.3 reached in 2012. Indexes for other baked foods like crackers and cake have fallen at least as steeply.

With the 2016 wheat harvests completed and the row crop harvests well under way, risks of a major rally in prices any time soon are not considered high. Still, many ingredient buyers have booked extensive forward coverage. Given the many other difficulties facing baking companies these days, it isn’t surprising that purchasing executives would happily avail themselves of the opportunity they see in ingredient prices near 10-year lows. 

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