Corn top 10-year high, soybeans to gain

02-01-2007 | |

Corn futures in Chicago may rise above a 10-year high and soybeans may extend a rally as demand increases for alternative fuels made from crops according to Bloomberg news agency.

Twenty of 26 traders, farm advisers and grain merchants surveyed Dec. 29 by
Bloomberg said to buy both commodities. Corn advanced 1.6% last week, the third
straight gain, and jumped a record 81% in 2006. Soybeans climbed 3.4%, ending
the year up almost 14%.

Rising demand for alternative fuels is eroding
supplies of crops normally used for animal feed or food processing. US
production capacity for corn-based ethanol, already at a record, may double in
the next two years, and the government said last month demand for biodiesel made
from soybean oil may rise 17% in 2007.

US demand for corn used to make
ethanol, a gasoline additive, will rise 34% to a record 2.15 billion bushels in
the marketing year that began Sept. 1, the US Department of Agriculture said
Dec. 11. Corn is the nation’s biggest crop and is also used to make livestock
feed and sweeteners.

The 110 factories now producing ethanol in the US
have boosted their annual capacity by 12% in the past six months, to 5.3 billion
gallons, according to the Renewable Fuels Association in Washington. An
additional 6 billion gallons of capacity will be added in the next two years as
79 new plants or expansions are completed, the association

Soybean prices
The March soybean contract rose 23 cents
to $6.9725 a bushel last week, the third consecutive weekly gain. Prices reached
a 17-month high on Dec. 29 and have jumped 28% in the past three months, the
most over a three-month period since October 2003.

High diesel-fuel
prices also are spurring global demand for alternative energy made from
vegetable oils such as soybeans, forcing processors such as Archer Daniels
Midland and Bunge to deplete record global inventories to the lowest in more
than 30 years.

There are 88 plants in the US that produced an estimated
250 million gallons of biodiesel in 2006, triple last year’s production of 75
million gallons, according to the National Biodiesel Board in Jefferson City,

Global use of vegetable oils in fuel will rise 17% in 2007 to
21.6 million tons from 2006 and more than double the 8.7 million tons used six
years ago, the USDA predicts. That’s almost equal to the entire food consumption
of vegetable oil in China, the biggest consumer.

Global inventories of vegetable oils may fall to the lowest
since 1974 as tax incentives encourage more production of biodiesel made from
rapeseed in the European Union and soybeans in the US, said John Baize,
president of John C. Baize and Associates in Falls Church,

“Global vegetable-oil prices could go through the roof in the
next 12 months,” Baize said. “If all the planned biodiesel plants were to come
on line in the next two years, it would consume 45 percent of the exports from
the top five vegetable oil exporters and leave little left over for

Corn and soybeans also may get a boost from increased investment
demand in commodities, many of which have outperformed stocks and bonds.

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