KANSAS CITY, Mo. — World weather anomalies have become significant enough to finally have some influence on commodity futures, but how long will the excited marketplace last? Flooding in the United States induced the greatest impetus for upward moving corn and soybean prices in recent weeks. India’s weather has had some influence as well along with Australia, China and Canada. However, the world is a different place than it was in 2008, which was the last time that US weather had a big role to play on worldwide weather.
Disbelief that the US weather would not trend better before the corn and soybean planting season was over delayed the onset of bullish trades this spring. Once it became obvious that there was dwindling hope for an adequate planting window in the US Midwest Delta and parts of the Plains the market finally got some momentum.
The unprecedented rainfall of May was the “coup de gras” that finally put traders into motion. Many states from Oklahoma to South Dakota and east into Iowa and Illinois reported either their wettest May on record or one of the top 10 wettest, and that occurred only after lengthy planting delays because wet and cool weather already had occurred in April. Flooding in May became very serious once again, and the excessive moisture situation left much of the United States in dire need of at least two weeks of significant drying. June came along and, of course, only generated additional rain and prevented the wettest areas from drying down.
Corn and soybean prevent planting dates came and went, and the bottom line is a record amount of abandonment that obviously shortens this year’s crops quite a bit. In addition to the reality of lost acreage, there is still much speculation about the future for US crop production. Some forecasters are watching for a developing drought while others are expecting more rain. The late planting this year automatically puts some of the US crop at risk of frost and freeze damage during September and October if the atmosphere cools down a little too quickly.
World Weather Inc. is finishing up a study that actually shows favor for normal to earlier-than-usual frost and freeze dates this autumn. Once that study is passed around there will be a little more impetus for futures trade.
All that excitement is based on US weather. There are other places in the world dealing with anomalous weather; including Canada, India, parts of Europe and western Russia, China and Australia. One of the few places in the world experiencing mostly good weather is South America.
Heading the list of international weather issues is India. The monsoon began extremely poorly this summer. Rainfall in the first half of June was down 43 percent for the nation as a whole with many areas reporting well-below-average amounts. The second half of June brought some improved rainfall to parts of the nation, but the month was expected to finish out well behind normal rainfall, but perhaps not as dry as mid-June.
El Niño and its closely related Southern Oscillation Index were certainly not favoring India rainfall during June. Warm ocean water in the central equatorial Pacific Ocean was creating a Modoki El Niño environment and forcing the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) to strongly negative values for much of the month. When strongly negative SOI is present India’s rainfall is often suppressed, and that has certainly been the case this summer.
The good news is that El Niño is expected to gradually diminish in the next few months and as ocean temperature anomalies become less significant the SOI will rise and El Niño will diminish. Both changes should help support greater rainfall in India, and for that reason World Weather Inc. anticipates greater rainfall in July and August. The changes will reduce some of the market attraction to India’s rainfall pattern, and speculation over a possible poor summer rainfall pattern will begin to wane. India weather is expected to gradually improve during the summer, but it may not see ideal precipitation this year.
Australia is another place in the world where El Niño has had at least a hand in the jar of frustration over limited rainfall. Queensland and Northern New South Wales have not seen much moisture of significance since prior to the planting season for wheat and barley. The region is often influenced by the presence of El Niño, and that is likely to be the case now. However, like India, Australia’s weather will improve during the winter and early spring as El Niño becomes a minimal event.
Western Australia is one of Australia’s most important wheat, barley and canola production areas. Colder-than-usual ocean water in the eastern Indian Ocean likely created a poor rainfall environment for Western Australia during much of June and possibly for a while in late May. Some areas in Western Australia were dry or mostly dry into mid-month before some rain finally fell. Since then, rain has been occurring more routinely, and that is expected to translate into a more successful planting and establishment season.
Warming ocean water in the eastern Indian Ocean will continue for a while and that also will promote greater rainfall in Western Australia. Over time, the jet stream will be strong enough to send Western Australia’s rain events eastward across South Australia, Victoria and southern New South Wales. Southeastern Australia has had the best crop and field conditions in recent weeks, limiting the fear over dryness that was rising for a while during the heart of May.
Queensland and northern New South Wales will not likely get much significant moisture until El Niño dissipates, but the region only contributes a limited portion of the overall grain and winter oilseed production. El Niño should weaken enough later in July and August to support some needed moisture.
Portions of the North China Plain also have been dry for weeks and that has put some pressure on unirrigated coarse grain and oilseed crops. The area impacted by poor rainfall has been small and it too may be relieved from dryness a little later this summer as El Niño weakens.
A similar situation with dryness was impacting both Canada and the CIS region from eastern Ukraine into western Kazakhstan in recent weeks. These areas have been dealing with drought for three years. Significant rain recently evolved across Canada to bolster soil moisture in support of improved wheat, barley, oats, durum, corn soybeans, canola and many pulse crops. The wetter bias should prevail for a while and a similar pattern change may come to areas from eastern Ukraine to Kazakhstan where it has been driest since 2017.
Despite ongoing weather issues in the United States, crop conditions in Australia, India, China and the eastern European Continent will improve enough for an eventual quieting in the world’s commodity trade.