30 Sep 2014
Grain prices down; potash, uranium up
Agricultural index down in August
Commodity prices are a mixed bag for Saskatchewan producers, with most agricultural commodity prices down in August, including wheat, canola and hogs, while other commodities like cattle, uranium and potash are showing signs of strength, according to a bank commodity report released Monday.
Scotiabank’s commodity price index report indicated its agricultural index was down 6.7 per cent in August over the previous month, mainly due to declines in grain and livestock prices. “The decline was led by barley, pushed lower by very low U.S. corn prices, a competing grain for livestock and poultry,” the Scotiabank report said.
The silver lining for Saskatchewan wheat producers is that some higher-grade crops left over from last year are fetching good prices because of the large, but relatively low-quality wheat harvest this year.
“While the world wheat crop is also expected to be a record this fall, crop quality will be poor in the United States, Russia, France and Ukraine, boosting premiums for high-protein bread wheat,” Scotiabank said. “Excessive moisture will also take a toll on Western Canada’s wheat quality, but carryover volumes of higher-wheat from 201314 will add to Prairie farm income this year.”
On the mineral side, potash prices were up slightly, while uranium prices have hit bottom and are moving upward, Scotiabank said.
Spot market potash prices were at US$310 per ton in August, up only slightly from the January low of US$295 for standard-grade potash. However, Uralkali, which caused potash prices to plummet when it left the Eastern European potash cartel BPC last July, has increased granular prices in Brazil and across Latin America to US$380 per ton.
Uralkali also intends to boost contract prices to China by 10 per cent in the first half of 2015. As a result, China will exercise its options on Canpotex volumes, eager to purchase more tonnage before prices move up.
Canpotex — the overseas sales agent of Potash Corp, Agrium and Mosaic — is effectively soldout over the balance of 2014, Scotiabank said.
Global potash deliveries were at record levels in the first half of 2014 and will likely increase by eight per cent to nearly 59 million tons in 2014. Canpotex producers have the bulk of the surplus capacity available for world markets. As a result, Potash Corp is recalling staff at previously curtailed operations in its Canadian mines and will consider raising its production to 10.5 million to 11 million tons in 2015 from 9.2 million tons this year.
Patricia Mohr, Scotiabank’s commodity specialist, said Potash Corp hopes to increase production now in the expectation of higher prices later. “They would like to have the volume gains, rather than substantially higher prices.”
Spot uranium prices have also lifted decisively off a US$28.25 per pound low in June to US$36.50 in mid September.
“Improving market sentiment reflects prospects for two nuclear reactor re-starts in Japan, more active midterm utility demand and production deferrals and curtailments,” Scotiabank said.