wheat corn
Photo: Adobe Stock
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, U.S. — Trading volume of food-grade organic wheat and corn continued to build in May, but soybean volume eased somewhat, while prices during the April-May period were mixed compared with February-March, according to Mercaris, the organic and non-GMO trading platform and market information company.

Food-grade organic hard red winter wheat averaged $11.03 a bushel in April-May, down $2.54 from the prior two-month period but up $1.55 from a year ago, with pressure on prices thought to be related to the advancing winter wheat harvest.

“Organic hard red winter wheat has declined over the second quarter, following a brief price spike in March,” said Ryan Koory, senior economist at Mercaris. “Despite pulling back more than $2 per bushel from the close of the first quarter, the organic hard red winter wheat price remained elevated more than $1.50 per bushel over the two-month April-May period compared to the prior year.

“Mercaris estimates that in 2017, the size of the winter wheat crop was limited by a 6% decline in yields. The 2018-19 crop has brought similar concerns as severe drought conditions have significantly impacted the quality of the U.S. winter wheat crop. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only 38% of U.S. winter wheat acres were reported as being in good-to-excellent condition the week of June 10, down from 50% a year ago. Organic winter wheat appears to be spared from the worst of the drought as the majority of organic winter wheat acres are located further north, above the drought impacted areas. Mercaris estimates that across the top 10 organic winter wheat producing states, 58% of acres are rated as in good-to-excellent condition, up from 51% a year ago.”

Prices for organic food-grade hard red spring wheat were quoted at $17.81 a bushel, down from last month’s report but also well above $15.28 per bushel a year ago.

Ryan Koory senior economist at Meracis
Ryan Koory, senior economist at Mercaris

“Organic hard red spring wheat trade remained active in May with reported trade volumes reaching a 10-month high,” Koory said. “Over the April-May time period, the delivered hard red spring price averaged $17.81 per bushel, up more than $2.50 per bushel from the same period in 2017. Organic hard red spring wheat began 2017 with volumes trading mostly in the $15.50 to $16 per bushel range. As the year progressed, drought conditions set in across the northern Plains region of the United States, leading to a significant reduction in spring wheat yields and an escalation of organic hard red spring wheat prices. So far, though, 2018 has seen better weather conditions allowing spring wheat planting to progress rapidly. Given growing conditions remain favorable, the 2018-19 hard red spring wheat crop is likely to be substantially larger than that produced last year.”

Trading of food-grade organic durum also increased, with prices down slightly from the prior two-month period and from the same two months a year ago.

“Organic durum wheat has picked up in the second quarter of 2018, with the delivered price averaging $17.25 per bushel, mostly flat with the first quarter of 2018,” Koory said. “After a brief decline in 2017 at the start of the summer harvest, U.S. delivered organic durum prices have remained fairly steady with most trades in the $15 to $19 per bushel range.”

Organic corn prices also ticked higher in April-May and were above year-ago levels. Trading volume increased in May, but supplies of food-grade organic corn have been hard to find and volume remains below the year-ago level.

“Organic corn trade continued to build in May, with the Mercaris recorded delivered price averaging $10.62 per bushel over the April-May time period,” Koory said. “Since the start of 2018, food- grade corn spot trades have remained scarce, reflecting the generally tight U.S. supply situation. Spring has brought an increase in market activity, presumably supported by farmers looking for cash flow ahead of planting, and purchasers upping their bids for spot deliveries. The range around price quotes tightened over April-May, with most quotes in the $9.50 to $13 per bushel range.

“Early concerns about the pace of U.S. corn planting have been all but erased as drier conditions in May and June allowed farm operators to quickly make up for the delayed start to the year. From crop progress data provided by the USDA, Mercaris estimates that planting across the top 10 organic corn producing states reached 96% complete the week of June 10, slightly ahead of the planting pace in 2017.”

Organic food-grade soybean prices were quoted at $21.13 a bushel for the April-May period, also up from the prior two-month price and from a year earlier, but trading activity slowed during May.

“Organic soybeans remained above $21 per bushel through the first half of the second quarter 2018,” Koory said. “The end of the first quarter saw a slowdown in spot trades as purchasers focused on securing contracts for fall new-crop delivery. With spring well under way, focus has again turned to spot supplies, providing modest support to prices. Over the two-month April-May time period, delivered organic food-grade soybean prices averaged $21.13 per bushel, up nearly $1 per bushel from the February-March time period. Unlike corn, the pace of U.S. soybean planting has run ahead of 2017 by nearly a week. Mercaris estimates that planting across the top 10 organic soybean producing states averaged 90% complete the week of June 10.”

Organic corn and soybean acreage tends to be concentrated in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes region to provide feed to organic dairies, and food-grade organic production tends to mirror organic feed-grain production. Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa have considerable organic acreage, along with New York, Texas and California, the latter three of which also are large dairy states.

Price changes from earlier periods sometimes vary from prior published quotes because prices are reported as a rolling average and are sometimes “backfilled” by traders, Koory said.

Mercaris is a comprehensive source of market data and online trading for feed-grade and food-grade organic and non-GMO commodities based in Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S. For more information visit www.mercaris.com.