Wheat could be surprise big winner of the US-China trade deal

Bloomberg Chicago | Updated on December 27, 2019 Published on December 27, 2019

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Wheat futures for March delivery climbed 1.5 per cent on Thursday in Chicago

In the agriculture world, news of the partial United States (US)-China trade deal has sparked a lot of buzz about soybeans. It turns out, wheat could actually end up being a bigger winner.

Speculations is mounting that China will work to fill its wheat-buying quota as part of the detente, creating new demand since its failed to stick to the pledge in the past. Purchases of soybeans, meanwhile, are likely to be hampered by a deadly pig disease that is reducing demand for the oilseed used to make a key ingredient in hog feed.

Wheat prices are already reacting as traders expect that China will soon release the quota, according to Chicago-based consultants AgResource. While the allotment, which is set by the World Trade Organization, could be filled by supplies from any country, it still means additional global demand at a time when international buyers have turned to American supplies.

If Chinese purchases were to reach the quota mark of 9.6-million tons, it would represent a huge jump in demand. In the six years through 2017, buying has averaged less than 50 per cent of the allotment.

The potential that China could secure an additional 5 to 6 million tons of world wheat annually is underpinning Chicago Board of Trade wheat, Chicago-based consultant AgResource Co said in a report on Thursday.

Wheat futures for March delivery climbed 1.5 per cent on Thursday in Chicago. Soybeans and corn were little changed.

The potential sales to China would be well-timed for US farmers. Relatively tighter corn supplies in South America and wheat in top shipper Russia have made American grain more competitively priced, already prompting non-Chinese buyers to boost purchases. In the week ended December 12, American exporters sold the most wheat in six years, according to USDA figures, excluding skewed data released after the federal government shutdown earlier this year.

Corn could also benefit if China moves to fill grain quotas, but to a smaller degree. At 7.2 million tons, the allotment is not only smaller, but the Asian nation has historically done a better job of filling it, meaning it would not represent a very big increase in demand.

Published on December 27, 2019
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