Although much of the attention in crop markets is rightly focused on the potential size of the northern hemisphere crops, the ongoing pace of consumption is an important measure of demand strength and the likely level of year-ending stocks, according to University of Illinois agricultural economist Darrel Good.

Following is Good’s report focusing on the U.S. export sector for wheat, corn, and soybeans.

“With the 2011-12 marketing year having ended for wheat on May 31, the cumulative export inspections for the year totaled 1.036 billion bushels, slightly above last month’s USDA projection of 1.025 billion bushels,” Good said.

“Through April, cumulative Census Bureau export estimates were about 4 million bushels less than cumulative inspections. Assuming that margin persisted through May, marketing year exports were about 7 million bushels larger than forecast.

“For the marketing year that began on June 1, the USDA has projected exports at 1.150 billion bushels,” Good said. “As of May 31, new sales plus unshipped sales from the past marketing year totaled 235.6 million bushels, near the level of sales of a year earlier.”  

Good said that to reach the USDA projection, shipments will need to average about 22.1 million bushels per week this year. Export inspections during the first week of the year were reported at 21.5 million bushels.

The final quarter of the 2011-12 marketing year for corn and soybeans began on June 1.

“Cumulative corn export inspections during the first three quarters of the year totaled 1.221 billion bushels,” Good said.

“Through April, cumulative Census Bureau export estimates exceeded inspections by 23 million bushels. Assuming that margin persisted through May, exports during the first three quarters totaled 1.244 billion bushels, 122 million less than during the same period last year.”

Good said that the USDA currently forecasts marketing year exports at 1.7 billion bushels. Exports during the final quarter of the year will need to total 456 million bushels, or 34.7 million bushels per week, to reach the projection.

Inspections averaged only 26.3 million bushels during the six weeks ended June 7 and dropped to a marketing-year low of 17 million bushels in the latest reporting week. Unshipped sales as of May 31 were reported at 304 million bushels, 87 million less than on the same date last year.