Agricultural commodities are at the start of a “mini-supercycle” with prices expected to be boosted for several years by demand from China and biofuels, according to some of the world’s largest traders.
Executives from Cargill, Cofco, Viterra and Scoular said this week that the corn, soybean and wheat markets will remain strong over the next two to four years.
Prices have fallen back from their multi-year highs in recent weeks as the US dollar has risen and rain is forecast for the US Midwest, but corn futures prices are double from a year ago. a year at $ 3.29 a bushel, soybeans at $ 14.31 is 65 per cent higher, and wheat is almost a third higher at $ 6.54.
“We are definitely seeing a mini supercycle,” said David Mattiske, managing director of Viterra, majority owned by Glencore. FT World Raw Materials Summit. “We are in a demand-driven environment with the themes of population growth, growing wealth, people consuming more. And on top of that, we have an increased demand for fuel from plant sources.
Higher and sustained prices will be a boon to farmers who have felt the financial pressure of several years of stagnant crop prices. However, this will mean higher food costs for grain and oilseed importers, particularly the poorest countries struggling with the economic effects of the pandemic as well as rising food prices.
The grain and soybean markets saw a sharp increase in the second half of last year after governments and businesses rushed to store during the pandemic. China, which had a poor maize harvest, made big purchases, importing a record 11.3 million tonnes last year, with more than a third of the total coming from the United States.
According to Alex Sanfeliu, head of Cargill’s global business unit, the two big harvests per year of corn and soybeans – one in the United States and the other in Brazil – mean that grain and oilseed supercycles tend to be shorter than other cultures, but predicted a bull market for the next two to four years. “The characteristics of the super cycle are there,” he said.
China’s large imports of corn last year, which previously aimed for self-sufficiency, took traders and analysts by surprise and fueled debate over whether it was a ‘replenishment’ afterwards. the shock of the pandemic or whether shopping would continue.
Several executives believe the gap will persist, prompting the rising power to continue importing corn. Marcelo Martins, head of grains and oilseeds at Cofco International, the trading arm of the Chinese state-owned conglomerate, said there was a supply-side imbalance due to a poor harvest. “[The supply deficit] is here to stay, ”he said.
Meanwhile, demand for biofuels, which has been driving up prices for soybeans and soybean oil, is “unprecedented,” according to Paul Maas, managing director of US agricultural trader Scoular. As governments push for a reduction in the use of fossil fuels, many are increasing the amount of biofuels blended with gasoline. “The increase in demand is real and we are at the forefront to see how it all plays out,” Maas said.
Despite the enthusiasm, Gary McGuigan, head of global trade at Archer Daniels Midland, added a note of caution. “We have seen a price correction over the past few weeks,” he said, adding that while demand dynamics are “definitely changing” it is too early to call a mini supercycle.
One of the big uncertainties was China. “Of all the high demand areas in the world, China is the most opaque and the most difficult to predict,” he said.