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Global Ag News for Jan 2.24


Free trade agreement between Nicaragua and China begins

Nicaragua and China on Monday formally started trading under a new free trade agreement, allowing the Central American country to export some 71% of its products into the largest Asian market and free of tariffs.

The exports will include meat and seafood, such as fish, shrimp, lobsters and sea cucumber, as well as sugar, peanuts and rum, state media reported. Among non-food items included in the agreement are leather, charcoal and wood, and automobile parts.

The agreement excludes Chinese goods that could be problematic for the key Nicaraguan industries, such as meat and its offal, coffee, rice and sugar.

President Daniel Ortega, who has governed Nicaragua for the past 17 years, defying protests and cracking down on dissent, called it “the best Christmas present” during his speech on Dec. 22.

“Our brothers are here to shake hands, not to attack us,” he said. “Let the imperialists of the land learn how to govern, how to work for peace.”

Nicaragua ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan at the end of 2021 and has since increasingly turned to China.

The agreement was signed on Oct. 31 in a virtual meeting and few additional details have been made public since.

Ortega’s son, Laureano Ortega, an adviser to the president who oversees the country’s relations with China and Russia, at the time said he was convinced the trade agreement would “generate economic and social benefits for Nicaraguan families, new investments and jobs, and transfer technology from China to Nicaragua.”


Markets remain closed overnight.

Markets finished last week with wheat prices up 15 1/2 in SRW, up 15 1/4 in HRW, up 9 1/4 in HRS; Corn is down 1 1/4; Soybeans down 3 3/4; Soymeal down $0.40; Soyoil down 1.15.

2023 year-end nearby futures were down 20.7% in SRW, down 27.7% in HRW, down 22.9% in HRS; Corn is down 30.5%; Soybeans down 14.9%; Soymeal down 19.3%; Soyoil down 25.0%.

Chinese Ag futures (MAY 24) Soybeans down 44 yuan; Soymeal down 85; Soyoil down 96; Palm oil down 72; Corn down 2 — Malaysian Palm is down 62.  Malaysian palm oil prices overnight were down 60 ringgit (-1.61%) at 3661.

There were changes in registrations (-11 Soybeans). Registration total: 1,295 SRW Wheat contracts; 159 Oats; 6 Corn; 696 Soybeans; 147 Soyoil; 0 Soymeal; 291 HRW Wheat.

Preliminary changes in futures Open Interest as of December 29 were: SRW Wheat up 2,713 contracts, HRW Wheat down 1,900, Corn up 14,612, Soybeans up 7,707, Soymeal down 5,805, Soyoil up 6,316.

The player sheet for Dec. 29 had funds: net sellers of 2,000 contracts of SRW wheat, sellers of 2,000 corn, sellers of 5,500 soybeans, sellers of 3,000 soymeal, and  buyers of 1,000 soyoil.


  • RICE TENDER: Egypt’s state grains buyer, the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC), set a tender to import natural white wholly milled short-grain Indian rice, it said in a statement. GASC, on behalf of Egypt’s Holding Company for Food Industries, sought arrival of the rice from Feb. 1-19 and/or Feb. 20-March 10. The deadline for offers was Dec. 21 and they should be accompanied by three samples, of two kilograms each, GASC said.
  • WHEAT TENDER: Jordan’s state grains buyer issued an international tender to buy up to 120,000 metric tons of milling wheat sourced from optional origins.
  • SUGAR TENDER: Egypt’s state grains buyer the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC) is seeking 50,000 tonnes of raw cane sugar and/or 50,000 tonnes of white sugar in a tender
  • SOYMEAL TENDER: Iranian state-owned animal feed importer SLAL has issued an international tender to purchase up to 200,000 metric tonnes of soymeal


US Export Sales of Soybeans, Corn and Wheat by Country

The following  shows US export sales of soybeans, corn and wheat by biggest net buyers for week ending Dec. 21, according to data on the USDA’s website.

  • Top buyer of soybeans: China with 577k tons
  • Top buyer of corn: Mexico with 558k tons
  • Top buyer of wheat: Mexico with 133k tons

US Export Sales of Pork and Beef by Country

The following shows US export sales of pork and beef product by biggest net buyers for week ending Dec. 21, according to data on the USDA’s website.

  • Mexico bought 21.9k tons of the 47.9k tons of pork sold in the week
  • South Korea led in beef purchases

CROP SURVEY: US Soybean Crush and Corn for Ethanol

The following is from a Bloomberg survey of five anlaysts.

  • Soybean crush seen at 200m bu in Nov., a 5.5% rise from a year ago
  • Crude and once-refined soybean-oil reserves at end of November seen at 1.657b lbs, down from 2.112b
  • Corn used in ethanol production seen up 0.1% y/y to 451
  • The USDA is scheduled to release its November Fats and Oils report along with the Grain Crushings report on Jan. 2 at 3pm

Hot Weather Triggers Early Start to Brazil Corn Planting Season

  • Corn seeding advanced as weather speeds up soybean harvest
  • Some farmers quickly swap harvested oilseeds for corn plantingBy Tarso Veloso

Brazil’s winter corn planting is off to one of its earliest starts on record, reducing some concerns about the ability of farmers to sow a sizable crop this season.

Hot and dry conditions over the past few weeks sped up the maturing of soybeans in parts of Mato Grosso, allowing some producers to harvest the oilseed sooner than expected and replace it with corn or cotton, according to the top farmer cooperative in the key producing state. This was a surprising turn, given a much-delayed soy planting fueled expectations that many farmers would run out of time to cultivate corn.

“This corn crop will be advanced,” said Leandro Bianchini, a commercial supervisor at Cooperativa Agropecuaria e Industrial Celeiro do Norte, Mato Grosso’s largest farmer cooperative, citing the earlier-than-anticipated soybean harvest.

Brazilian farmers usually plant soybeans in September and October and harvest the crop from January to March. As soon as soybeans are harvested, farmers often plant the so-called safrinha, as the winter corn crop is known, which starts to be collected in May.

The earlier soybean harvest comes despite the region experiencing the latest plantings since the 2015-16 season, according to Mato Grosso’s Rural Economy Institute. About 80% of soybeans had been planted as of early November — considered the ideal sowing window — down from 93% in the same period a year earlier, the institute said.

Still, part of the soybean crop will unlikely be harvested in time to be replaced with corn. And some farmers plan to cut down on planting and reduce fertilizer usage to slash costs following yield losses from their oilseed crops, according to Bianchini. Both would limit the region’s potential winter corn crop harvest.

Brazil is expected to produce 129 million metric tons of corn in 2024, down almost 6% from this year, the US Department of Agriculture said earlier this month.

Brazil overtook the US as the world’s largest corn exporter after a record harvest in 2023, giving the South American nation even greater influence in the global food trade. Another bumper harvest would likely weigh on prices for the commodity, which is headed for a 30% decline this year.

Soybean oil use for U.S. biofuels production fell to 1,062 million lbs in October -EIA

Soybean oil used to produce biofuels in the United States fell to 1,062 million lbs used in October.

In September, soyoil used in biodiesel production was 1,207 million lbs. Soybean oil remains the largest U.S. biodiesel feedstock.

Ukraine says exports via Black Sea corridor reach 13 mln T

Ukraine has exported 13 million tonnes of cargo through its Black Sea shipping corridor, Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Tuesday.

“Despite systematic attacks on port infrastructure, ports accepted 430 vessels for loading through #Ukrainian_corridor,” he wrote on social media platform X.

Malaysia’s December Palm Oil Exports Seen At 1,353,828 Metric Tons – Amspec Agri


Malaysia Dec. Palm Oil Exports -9.9% M/m: Intertek

Following is a summary of Malaysia’s Dec. palm oil exports according to Intertek Testing Services.

  • Total exports for Dec. 2023: 1.379m tons
  • Crude palm oil exports: 455,020 tons, 33.0% of total
  • India & Subcontinent led all destinations for total exports: 416,090 tons

China launches test runs for world’s largest plant that can convert coal to ethanol

  • Traditional ethanol production from corn or sugar cane competes with food supply, with China’s rising grain prices also posing a challenge
  • Coal-based production line ‘vital’ for China’s food and energy security, co-developer Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics says in report on website

The world’s largest coal-based ethanol production plant has started test runs in southeastern China, state media reported.

The plant, which has an annual capacity of 600,000 tonnes, uses coal rather than crops as raw materials to produce ethanol – a petrol additive and valuable basic chemical. This is expected to ease the pressure on China’s food sources while reducing its dependence on fuel ethanol imports.

Ethanol is a clean, renewable energy source with a density similar to petrol. Anhydrous ethanol, with a concentration of over 99.5 per cent, can be blended with petrol to improve exhaust emissions and enhance fuel combustion performance.

Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.

Traditional ethanol production from corn or sugar cane competes with food supply, with China’s rising grain prices also posing a challenge. Using low-grade coal, a mineral China has in abundance, can save millions of tonnes of grain a year.

“The new production route is vital for China’s food security, energy security and the chemical industry supply chain,” the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (DICP) said in a report on its website.

China’s corn-based ethanol fuel production seen threatening food security

The coal-based plant in Huaibei, Anhui province, uses advanced technology jointly developed by the DICP and the state-owned Shaanxi Yanchang Petroleum Group, state news agency Xinhua reported on Friday.

The new technology, called DMTE, produces methanol from coke oven gas – a by-product of coke production – which then reacts with other materials to generate ethanol. It can enable large-scale production of ethanol not only from coal, but natural gas or gas from steel plants as well, according to the DICP report.

China is the only country known to have deployed the technology on an industrial level.

As ethanol can be transformed into ethylene or replace ethylene in some reactions as chemical feedstock, it possesses the dual characteristics of being both an excellent energy product and a bulk chemical raw material that can be used to make hundreds of related products.

Global ethanol production currently stands at around 100 million tonnes. Produced mainly from crops like corn, cassava, sugar beet and sugar cane by the United States and Brazil, the chemical largely finds use as fuel ethanol.

China has a significant demand for fuel ethanol but faces a severe shortfall. Last year, it produced about 2.7 million tonnes of fuel ethanol through fermentation of aged grain, but a market gap of 10 million tonnes meant it was heavily reliant on imports.

The coal-to-ethanol team, led by DICP director Liu Zhongmin, developed their environmentally friendly DMTE pathway after researching non-crop ethanol production methods since 2010.

In 2017, the team helped to design the world’s first 100,000-tonne coal-to-ethanol production line, set up in northwestern Shaanxi province. The researchers have since optimised the reaction process and reduced production costs, by replacing the original costly catalysts with non-precious metals.

In June last year, China officially achieved international standards in coal-to-ethanol production with trial runs for a 500,000-tonne facility featuring only domestically made equipment in Yulin, also in Shaanxi. It is now the second-largest such facility in the world, behind the Huaibei plant.

“As of now, 13 industrial facilities [including two overseas ones] plan to use DMTE technology, constituting an ethanol production capacity of 3.95 million tonnes per year,” the DICP report said.

What is in Javier Milei’s sweeping Argentina reform bill?

Argentine President Javier Milei has sent a reform bill to Congress proposing far-reaching changes to the country’s tax system, electoral law and public debt management.

The push to reshape South America’s second-largest economy with an omnibus bill requires approval from lawmakers in both chambers of Congress, where Milei’s coalition holds a small minority of seats.


The bill has 664 articles that range from allowing the privatization of 41 public companies, eliminating the presidential primary vote and introducing a broad 15% tax on most exports.

The government also proposed raising export taxes for soy and its derivatives to 33% from 31%. Argentina is the world’s No. 1 exporter of processed soy.

The bill aims to introduce tax amnesties for Argentines, allowing them to register and repatriate some undeclared assets such as stocks, cryptocurrencies and cash.

A reform to public debt management would remove limits on sovereign bonds issued overseas and eliminate some conditions on restructuring debt.

Changes to Argentina’s proportional representation electoral system would raise the number of lawmakers in each district to one per 161,000 inhabitants, from one per 180,000 inhabitants. This would give more power to the populous province of Buenos Aires in the lower house of Congress, according to a note to clients by consultancy firm 1816.

Among the more controversial reforms cited, is a call to cede some legislative power to the presidency until Dec. 31, 2025, with the option to extend these for a further two years.


Markets cautiously welcomed a presidential decree from Milei last week to deregulate the economy, which came into effect on Dec.29 and also introduces wide-ranging reforms such as the end to export limits.

That decree must go before a legislative commission to weigh its constitutionality. It will remain in force unless both Congress and the Senate vote it down.

Unlike the reform bill, the presidential decree does not include changes to the tax and the electoral system, which must be put to congressional debate under Argentina’s constitution.


Milei’s government sent the bill to Congress on Wednesday and has called for extraordinary sessions to fast-track its reform agenda.

The extraordinary sessions are scheduled through Jan. 31, shortening the usual recess until March. Lawmakers will set up commissions to analyze the proposals, which may include input from experts and government officials.

Several of the measures proposed require an absolute majority, such as electoral reform, which analysts warn could slow the process down. There is no set timeline stipulated for the bill to be debated.


Milei’s coalition, La Libertad Avanza, controls only 15% of seats in the lower house, so must rally support to move forward.

If eventually approved by the lower house, the bill moves to the Senate, where the government is even weaker, with less than 10% of seats.

Given his lack of a strong party or a majority in either chamber, analysts warn that Milei faces an uphill battle to advance his reform agenda.

“My doubt is whether Milei is open to accepting changes, or whether he wants the bill to pass without accepting any amendments,” said Ignacio Labaqui senior analyst at Medley Global Advisors in Buenos Aires. “If he goes for the second option, he is literally declaring war on the legislative branch and has a high chance of losing.”

Opposition movements have organized demonstrations against Milei’s agenda in several cities since he took office Dec. 10.


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