Two ocean freighters are slowly making their way from southern ports in Brazil to ports on the East Coast of the United States.
While thousands of such ships dock each year at U.S. ports after trips partway around the globe, these particular vessels, the Maia and the CS Chara, are loaded with soybeans. They were harvested earlier this year in Brazil and will be part of a series of shiploads to dock at U.S. ports and unload their soybeans, destined to become soybean meal for livestock feed and soybean oil, possibly for biodiesel production.
While hundreds of ships loaded with soybeans make their way annually to China from Brazilian and U.S. ports, there is irony in the Brazilian beans coming to the United States. Although U.S. farmers produced 3.29 billion bushels of soybeans last year, the third largest soybean crop ever, U.S. soybean exporters sold more soybeans than the U.S. Department of Agriculture expected. With soybean crushers also running at capacity for the year, the USDA now expects the supply of soybeans to be a drop in the bucket before the 2014 crop is ready for harvest.
Subsequently, the livestock industry, the biodiesel industry, the food industry, and thousands of companies outside those categories won’t not have sufficient supplies of soybean-based products which are needed. Based on the data of soybeans produced and already used or committed, soybeans have now reached above $15 per bushel. That is a magnetic price which has drawn the shiploads of beans to the United States and the USDA expects as many as 90 million bushels of soybeans will be imported before the end of the marketing year on Aug. 31.
Irony? Travesty? Unthinkable for the United States to be importing Brazilian soybeans? Most people would agree to one of those. After all, traders at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange will likely devalue soybeans when the ships arrive in port and begin unloading. After all, it is a psychological thing.
But a different way of looking at it came last week from John Baize. Baize has been a long time consultant to the soybean industry about government treatment of soybeans and international issues affecting the soybean economy. He isn’t upset at all about the impor of Brazilian soybeans.
Baize looks at it as the perfect scenario for soybean economics. Scenario, not storm. According to his calculations, farmers sold their 2013 crop soybeans early in the marketing year at very high prices. He says we are short of soybeans now, and will be bringing soybeans into the United States from Brazil at much cheaper prices than what farmers sold their soybeans for. In his words, “It’s a good situation that I think we will see often in the future.”
The Baizian economic theory is parallel to the theory that drives the commodities market of buying low and selling high. In this case, he says farmers sold high, and now the shortage of soybeans is being replaced by soybeans that are being purchased for lower prices.
The big question is whether the Chicago Mercantile Exchange traders will agree with that economic theory in the next few days when the Maia and the CS Chara ask port authorities for permission to dock and unload.
Even if the traders don’t agree, any bearish reaction won’t last long because of the surging demand for U.S. soybeans, both domestically and abroad. With demand strong for old crop soybeans in many livestock areas, soybean crushing plants and biodiesel refineries, shortages in those spots will keep prices high, at least in the cash market.