Category Archives: shipping

Hot 5: Crop Inputs. Global Food Prices. Dry Bulk Shipping Declines. Rice Stocks. “Farm Kings” Show.

1. Crop and Pesticide Inputs.

Pesticide Inputs
Of the five crops, 53 percent of the pesticide total was applied to corn in 1982, followed by soybeans (28 percent), cotton (9.6 percent), fall potatoes (4.8 percent), and wheat (4.5 percent). Corn’s share declined to 43 percent in 2010, while fall potatoes’ share increased to 20 percent (because of large increases in the application of other chemicals, particularly vine killers such as sulfuric acid).

Herbicides accounted for the largest share of pesticides applied throughout 1982-2010, while the other-chemicals category increased most in share. Corn accounted for the majority of herbicide and insecticide use until the early 1990s, after which cotton accounted for the majority of insecticide use due to boll-weevil eradication efforts. The majority of fungicides and other chemicals were applied to fall potatoes.

Total pesticide use on corn, cotton, fall potatoes, soybeans, and wheat was stable during 1982-2010, increasing in some years and declining in others, with an average annual increase of 0.2 percent. Herbicide and insecticide quantities applied declined 0.2 percent and 3.9 percent per year, while fungicide and other-chemical quantities increased 3.3 and 6.0 percent. Changes in the use of pesticides during this period are due to several factors, including the widespread adoption of genetically engineered crops, the expiration of the glyphosate patent in 2000, the availability of new compounds with lower application rates, boll-weevil eradication, and changes in pesticide prices, which increased slowly compared to the prices of other inputs such as fertilizer. (source: usda)

Also, see my recent post on a review of the Benbrook pesticide study.

2. The September FAO Food Price Index Went up 1.4 Percent.

  • The 1.4 percent rise reflected strengthening dairy and meat prices and more contained increases for cereals. Prices of sugar and oils fell.
  • Gains in wheat and rice prices offset a decline in maize. While shrinking maize export availabilities and high maize prices have been leading cereal markets in recent months, tightening wheat supplies have also become a concern.
  • Dairy, poultry, and pork helped push the Index up slightly. The FAO meat price index was up 2.1 percent. The grain-intensive pig and poultry sectors recorded particularly strong gains, increasing by 6 percent and 2 percent respectively.
  • The FAO dairy price index was up 7 percent. All the five dairy products monitored saw prices rise, in particular skim milk powder and casein, which both surged by 12 percent.
  • The FAO’s latest forecasts confirm a decline in global cereal production this year from the record registered in 2011. But record harvests are expected in Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs). Its forecast for the LIFDCs’ 2012 aggregate cereal production points to a record level of 534 million tonnes, up 1.7 percent from the good harvest of 2011. Excluding India, the largest country in this group which is expected to see a stagnant total cereal harvest this year, the aggregate cereal output of the remaining 65 LIFDCs is estimated to expand by 2.9 percent. At the currently forecast level, world cereal production in 2012 would be 2.6 percent down from the previous year’s record crop but close to the second largest in 2008. The overall decrease comprises a 5.2 percent reduction in wheat production and a 2.3 percent reduction for coarse grains. In Afghanistan, a bumper wheat harvest has been gathered.

3. Dry Bulk Shipping Sinks Some More.

Photo: Handymax. Wikipedia.

The over-capacity in the dry bulk shipping sector has hurt the industry for the past four years and will be impacted further this year because of the droughts in the U.S., Australia, and Russia. Cereal accounts for about 10 percent of the dry bulk commodity shipping business and this year it is expected that less grain will be transported. This will hurt the panamaxes, the supramaxes and the handysizes, and may contribute to the selling of some vessels, as well as rock-bottom shipping rates.

Average earnings have slid to around $4,000 and $8,000 a day for panamaxes and supramaxes, respectively, versus operating cost levels estimated at $5,600 and $5,100 a day.

Read the rest at Reuters Africa…..

4. The Rice Supply.

The above are the most recent rice supply numbers from the International Grain Council.

A positive story throughout this drought year has been that the global rice supply is strong. Rice is the crop which feeds half the world, and much of that goes to the world’s most vulnerable populations. During the 2007 food crisis, rice was in short supply. Rice is thinly traded.

The rice market remains subdued relative to wheat and coarse grains, with production and consumption broadly balanced and stocks expected to rise marginally y/y. Thai export values have weakened, narrowing the differential with other Asian suppliers to an extent, but the state intervention programme remains the key element in price determination.

5. A Farming Reality Show: “Farm Kings”.

“Farm Kings” is a reality television show about the King family and Freedom Farms in Valencia, Pennsylvania. It began airing on GAC-TV Sept. 27.

Agriculture News July 9, 2012

Photo: Flickr CC via bagsgroove

Now, it’s possible that Mother Nature will surprise the monoculture cropland country with unexpected rains this next week, and it’s possible that such rains could revive crops much more than the current gloomy forecasters expect, but it’s also possible that the Midwest is in for a long overdue drought season, and then the question is will policy-makers adjust the ethanol mandate to stave off bad PR related to high food prices, high commodity prices, failing livestock operations, and a sinking U.S. export market? In a week, or two, we’ll know more.

Here in Boulder the fire has been out for many days and the monsoon season has started. There have been flood warnings and our own basement is “wet”. July rainfall far exceeds June’s now.

Next, is this week’s news and it starts out with a Must-Read. Kudos to the DesMoines Register for the story.

Basu: Is help from corporate agriculture beneficial? AgriSol deal would have benefited American investors at Tanzanians expense (DesMoinesRegister)

Members of the Des Moines Occupy movement announced plans to protest the World Food Prize events this fall. Instead of “pro-corporate agribusiness recipients who support GMO crops and the use of harmful pesticides and chemicals,” the prize should honor people “who advocate sustainable, safe, local agriculture in the U.S. and abroad,” the group said in a statement. … corporate agribusiness has gone beyond controlling food supplies to also controlling “governments, laws, and patents. …”

Grinding Energy Shortage Takes Toll on India’s Growth (WSJ)

As Farms Bite the Dust, “Megadrought” May Be the New Normal in the Southwest – My current perch in Placitas, New Mexico feels like a front-row seat to the apocalypse. (Alternet)

In pictures: Rainforests to palm oil (Mongabay)

U.S. soybean futures surged to an all-time high price and corn rose due to fears that continued dry conditions in the U.S. Midwest crop belt would further threaten yields. Sizzling temperatures abated in the Corn Belt over the weekend, but rains this week were expected to miss the areas that need it most. (Reuters)

How the 1950s Drought Changed Texas Agriculture Forever (NPR)

Texas Seeks New Water Supplies Amid Drought (NPR)

Last summer, during the height of the drought, West Texas farmers kept watering their cotton crops despite knowing they wouldn’t grow. They needed to do so to qualify for federal crop insurance. … Some farmers using advanced watering technologies, like drip irrigation, did produce cotton on irrigated land, sometimes with record yields. (TexasTribune)

Corn and wheat prices may be trading close to ten-month highs but contrary to public opinion many farmers are not reaping fat profits. The stark reality is that growers’ margins are razor thin and many are even losing money because food crops are priced well-below the cost of production, former Australian farmer Paul Hickey explains. (CNBC)

Delayed Rains Strain India Economy – Unusual Monsoon Season Threatens Vital Crops in Parts of the Agricultural Northern States, Aggravates Power Shortages (WSJ) Please note that the “Weather Maps” tab above includes an India drought map.

Getting Crops Ready for a Warmer Tomorrow (WSJ)

In times like these, a Nebraska farmer can be really grateful for his center pivot — and for the Ogallala Aquifer that feeds it. … About two-thirds of the state’s corn crop is irrigated. (Omaha W-H)

The drought in Arkansas with agriculture there “in crisis mode” (Couriernews)

The historic Texas drought caused the Ogallala Aquifer to experience its largest decline in 25 years across a large swath of the Texas Panhandle, new numbers from a water district show. The 16-county High Plains Underground Water Conservation District reported this week that its monitoring wells showed an average decline last year of 2.56 feet — the third-largest in the district’s 61-year history, and three times the average rate over the past decade. (Texastribune)

“Oil palm is such a lucrative crop that there is almost no way to stop it,” says William Laurance, a forest-conservation scientist at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia. Indonesia, the world’s largest grower of oil palms (see ‘Palm sprouts’), is expected to double production by 2030. (Nature)

In fall 2013, Perdue will open a new soybean processing plant, the culmination of two years of work. The Lancaster County, Pa., plant is being spearheaded by the poultry giant’s agribusiness division, which focuses on procuring and distributing grains. (Delmarvanow)

The Pentagon is pushing ahead with a $420 million effort to build refineries to make competitively priced biofuels, despite anger in Congress over the price the Navy paid for alternative fuel to test a carrier strike group this month. (Reuters)

● Chris Clayton writes about the important subject of bulk shipping. Dredging Up the Potential of a Post-Panamax World (DTNprogressivefarmer) Post-Panamax vessels make up 16% of the world’s container fleet, but account for 45% of the fleet’s capacity. By 2030, those largest vessels will make up 62% of capacity. And more on the shipping subject from Reuters: The Baltic capesize Index has fallen by two-thirds in the past 3 months to its lowest in more than 2 years. Rates for supramax vessels were faring slightly better, though the Baltic’s supramax index has dropped by a quarter in the last 3 weeks.

India, the world’s second-biggest wheat producer, risks losing more than 6 million metric tons of grain to rain and pests as the country lacks warehouses to stockpile crops that have risen to records for six years. (Bloomberg)

In Syria, food prices have tripled in parts of seven provinces where the livelihoods of farmers and livestock herders are at risk of collapse because the wheat harvest is being delayed by a shortage of diesel, needed for machinery. (World Food Programme)

Agri Machinery Expo in the PhilippinesThe DA figures show that only 0.52 horsepower is used per hectare in the Philippines. On the other hand, progressive countries like Japan and Korea have high power inputs of 7hp and 4.11 hp per hectare, respectively. (

Americans Are Eating More And More Chicken The USDA predicts that Americans will consume 1.7 percent more poultry next year (82 pounds per person) and decrease red meat consumption by 2.2 percent (54.5 pounds per person). (Business Insider)

World Agricultural Equipment Market, Agricultural Machinery Demand to Rise 6.7% Annually Through 2016 (RedOrbit)

Fish and Soybean Farmers to Shake Hands? (Triple Pundit)

Who Needs a WeedWacker When You Can Use a Scythe? (WSJ)

Chinese farmer walks 5,000 ducks to a nearby pond with video. (BBC)


This chart shows that first time ever, the EIA Monthly coal- and natural gas-fired generation is equal (in April 2012)

● Recently published electric power data show that, for the first time since EIA began collecting the data, generation from natural gas-fired plants is virtually equal to generation from coal-fired plants, with each fuel providing 32% of total generation.

● There are strong seasonal trends in the overall demand for electric power. In April 2012, demand was low due to the mild spring weather. Also in April, natural gas prices as delivered to power plants were at a ten-year low.

● With warmer summer weather and increased electric demand for air conditioning, demand will increase, requiring increased output from both coal- and natural gas-fired generators.


Port Near Shanghai China Receives Large Grain Imports

This short video shows the soybean processing facility near Shanghai which became operational in 2009. Two panamax ships can be unloaded at the same time at this port which receives 30 shipments a year of corn and soybeans. This serves as a great example of how agricultural trade with China is changing and necessary infrastructure is advancing. Closest port providing soybeans to Shanghai? Pacific Northwest.


FAO Food Price Index Fell for the 3rd Consecutive Month

The FAO Food Price Index (FFPI) headed down another 1.8 percent from May and is the lowest since September 2010. After the third consecutive month of decline, the June value of the FFPI is 15.4 percent below the peak reached in February 2011.

What is NOT driving up food prices? Bulk shipping rates.

“While ocean freight rates at the end of April 2011 were somewhat higher than in February 2011, they were still less than a fourth of the peak levels reached in 2007 and 2008, largely reflecting the increase in shipping capacity.”

Ocean freight rates affect the cost of imported food commodities. As food commodity prices increased leading up to the 2008 peak, dry bulk freight rates rose even more rapidly, increasing more than 350 percent between January 2006 and November 2007. High oil prices, increased demand for ocean shipping, and slow growth in the availability of dry bulk shipping vessels were the major factors contributing to higher freight rates. By the end of 2008, ocean freight rates had plummeted more than 90 percent as a result of lower oil prices, reduced demand associated with the global recession, and an increase in the number of ships.

In the 12 months preceding February 2011, dry bulk freight rates did not increase or contribute to higher prices for imported food commodities. While ocean freight rates at the end of April 2011 were somewhat higher than in February 2011, they were still less than a fourth of the peak levels reached in 2007 and 2008, largely reflecting the increase in shipping capacity.
source: usda


Dry Bulk Shipping Facts and Competition

Though the amount of bulk shipping being done is increasing annually, the build out of vessels is making competition fierce and may result in some scrapping by those unable to make a profit in the industry. To put grain bulk shipping into perspective for the industry, here are some stats from World-grain:
  • The grain trade contributes less than 10% to total annual global ton-mile demand for bulk carriers.
  • In the next four years the dry bulk fleet is expected to grow by some 2,900 new vessels, for a net gain of about 30% to 40%.
  • More volumes moving on U.S.-Asia and South America routes will continue to see grain’s contribution to global ton-mile demand grow.
  • In 2009, ton-mile demand (for grain) totaled 1,109 billion ton-miles. This was forecast to have risen to 1,310 in 2010 and is expected to climb again in 2011 to 1,407 billion ton-miles.

Note that iron ore and coal are the two main commodities shipped in the dry bulk market by volume.

  • In 2010, India imported over 80 million tonnes of coal from Indonesia.
  • In 2009, China imported close to 628 million tons of iron ore.
  • In 2010, China imported 164.83 million tons of coal.
  • Brazil’s mining company, Vale estimates its annual iron ore production will hit 311 million tonnes in 2011, increasing output to 522 million tonnes by the end of 2015. (Australia is still the largest supplier of ore to China.)

Enter the giant Chinamax vessel in 2011:
Greatly adding to global dry shipping supply competition is the new
Chinamax. The 400,000-tonne dry bulk carrier introduced this year will cut the cost of iron ore freight into China from Brazil, and these vessels will also be used for coal shipments in the future.

Brazil’s Vale mining company is planning to build 80-100 Chinamax vessels to drive down shipping rates so that the differential between Brazil-China freight and Australia-China is minimal. This competition may drop capesize rates to 1977 levels of $10,000 to $12,000 per day, according to Reuters. These giant carriers may reduce shipping by 50% for Vale to $7 a tonne.

Ports that can handle this size vessel, other than Brazil, include Rotterdam, Oman, and Malaysia. Ore will be transferred to capesize vessels from these large ports to be distributed to China and the Middle East.


(Hyundai) cape size vessel

From wikipedia:

Capesize vessels are typically above 150,000 long tons deadweight (DWT), and ships in this class include oil tankers in the Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) and Ultra Large Crude Carrier (ULCC) classes; supertankers and bulk carriers transporting coal, ore, and other commodity raw materials. The term “capesize” is most commonly used to describe bulk carriers rather than tankers. A standard capesize bulker is around 175,000 DWT, although larger ships (normally dedicated to ore transportation) have been built, up to 400,000 DWT. The large dimensions and deep drafts of such vessels mean that only the largest deep water terminals can accommodate them.


Post Panamax (Nord Dorado)

From wikipedia:

Post-Panamax or over-Panamax denote ships larger than Panamax that do not fit in the canal, such as supertankers and the largest modern container ships. The ‘largest oil tanker in the world’ — whichever ship held the title at the time — has not been able to transit the Panama Canal at least since the Idemitsu Maru was launched in the 1960s; she was about 150,000 deadweight tons. U.S. Navy supercarriers are also in the post-Panamax class; the Nimitz class aircraft carriers are 1,092 ft (332.84 m) long overall with a beam of 134 ft (40.84 m), while the flight deck is 252 ft (76.81 m) wide.


Also see previous posts:
At What Oil Price Does it Pay to Ship Agricultural Products?
ADM Invests Big in Uruguay Port