Although demand for corn remained relatively strong the first week in November with China continuing to make purchases, corn prices faltered slightly.
“The corn market had a big hit, unfortunately,” said Betsy Jensen, Northland Farm Business Management and a producer/marketer from Stephen, Minn. “Corn does not have the bullish fundamentals right now that soybeans do, so corn really took a step back. We’re still doing well. It looks like $4.20 for March futures, but we need to get a good pop above that in order to call this market bullish. We kind of hit a wall.”
At one local elevator in west central Minnesota regularly followed in this column, as of Nov. 9, November cash corn prices were $3.70 and basis was -38 cents under. April 2021 corn futures were $4.20 and basis was +2 cents over.
Demand for corn has been “pretty good” with China continuing to buy and ethanol use starting to pick back up again, though slowly, according to Jensen.
“The good news for corn is that China continues to buy. That’s great news,” she said. “We don’t always sell (corn) to China and we are right now. That’s a great thing to be happening. We’re happy to see this demand and maybe it will take the place of some of that ethanol demand we lost.”
One big reason China is purchasing more corn is because they’ve started to rebuild their hog herd after devastating losses due to African swine fever earlier this year.
“China has some animals that they need to feed, so (they’ve) decided to start buying corn,” she said. “The problem with China buying corn is that it’s not reliable. We know that they’re going to buy soybeans every year, but we don’t know what they’re going to do for corn.
“They could decide tomorrow that they have enough corn, so we’re really unsure how much China demand there is for corn,” she continued. “Right now it looks great, but that could change very quickly.”
And although ethanol is looking much better at this time, it is still below levels we saw prior to the pandemic.
“If you look at fuel prices right now, we are not driving as often as we did,” Jensen said. “We don’t have the fuel use that we did. Ethanol has picked up, but it’s definitely lower than what we were pre-pandemic.”
One thing that’s interesting in corn that Jensen wants farmers to be aware of is it’s “flattening out.”
“If you harvested early in October, you put it in the bin and you sold it for delivery next March, April, May,” she said. “Right now, that has kind of flattened out a little bit. We’re losing our carrying charge in corn. They want the corn a little bit more today than they wanted it in March or April.
“We don’t have a huge premium for storing corn anymore,” she continued. “Now, we do have a pretty good basis, but that’s something that indicates good demand, a strong demand market. ‘Sell the carry’ has been the advice for corn for a long time. There’s been a big carrying charge in the corn market and we are losing that right now. So just keep an eye on that. That is something that tends to indicate some bullish fundamentals and there might be an opportunity you might have to jump on quickly.”
“Selling for future delivery isn’t the answer in corn anymore like it has been for the past year and a half,” Jensen concluded.