1. Ocean freight rates decline in second quarter
An excess supply of ocean vessels continued to prevail as vessel demand lagged. Excess vessel supply kept ocean freights moderately low, the weekly Grain Transportation Report said.
Ocean freight rates for bulk grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan averaged $30.86 per metric ton during the second quarter, down 3% from the previous quarter, 33% less than the same period a year ago, and 37% less than the four-year average.
Rates from the Pacific Northwest to Japan averaged $17.04 per mt. That is down 4% from the previous quarter, down 33% from a year earlier and down 36% from the four-year average.
During the second quarter of 2015, it cost on average $13.95 to ship a metric ton of bulk grain from the U.S. Gulf to Europe. That is down 1% from the first quarter, down 28% from a year ago, and down 32% from the 4-year average, respectively.
2. Dry weather prompts consultancy to lower EU wheat, corn crops – Reuters
Consultancy Strategie Grains on Thursday lowered its outlook for this year's soft wheat and maize harvests in the European Union due to the impact of dry and hot weather.
Traders and analysts have been scaling back harvest estimates in Europe to reflect weather stress, with concerns focused on maize, which is less developed than wheat or barley and going through the crucial pollination stage, Reuters said.
he soft wheat harvest, which is under way in the 28-country EU, was put at 140.9 million tonnes, 0.7 million tonnes less than forecast last month and 6% below a 2014 crop of 149.3 million, Strategie Grains said in a report.
It made a combined 1.6-million-tonne cut to soft wheat production in Germany, France, Spain, Poland, the Benelux, Denmark and Italy.
Strategie Grains lowered forecast for the EU maize (corn) to 66.7 million tonnes, down 700,000 tonnes from its June outlook and 12 percent below 2014 production of 75.7 million, and warned crops could suffer more without rain relief.
Expected output in Spain, France, Italy, Poland, Hungary and Austria was cut by a total of 0.8 million tonnes. That was partially offset by increases in Bulgaria and Portugal.
3. High water, flooding disrupts U.S. river shipments
As of July 15, flooding has closed portions of the Illinois River. St. Louis Harbor remains at elevated levels and the Coast Guard restricts traffic to daylight only passage, USDA's weekly Grain Transportation Report said on Thursday.
On the lower Mississippi River, extreme high water has restricted southbound tows to a maximum of 36 barges requiring a towboat to have at least 280 horsepower per barge. Transit through Vicksburg and Memphis bridges is restricted to daylight only.
However, year-to-date down-bound barge tonnages are 17,521 thousand tons, about the same as last year, and 13 percent higher than the 5-year average.
4. El Nino crimps rain in India, threatens crops
Soybean and peanut crops in India are at risk of lower yields as a deepening dry spell during the monsoon parches fields, according to a Bloomberg report.
Soybeans sown in the past two weeks need immediate rain in the next three to four days or will have to be replanted, said a state official. If the rains continue to be delayed farmers will have to replace the oilseed with lentils, he said.
A strengthening El Nino has reduced rainfall from Thailand to India, hurting crops and threatening to raise food prices.
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