April 27, 2020 / 4:06 AM / a month ago

GRAINS-Wheat drops for 2nd session as coronavirus curbs demand; corn eases

* Chicago wheat futures hit lowest since April 17

* Wheat consumption seen down as virus curbs demand (Adds details on speculators position, quote in paragraph 3)

By Naveen Thukral

SINGAPORE, April 27 (Reuters) - Chicago wheat futures slid for a second straight session on Monday to their lowest since April 17 on expectations of lower global demand as the coronavirus pandemic curbed consumption and rains in Europe boosted supply outlook.

Corn lost more ground due to a lack of demand for oil-substitute ethanol, made from the grain, amid the virus outbreak.

“Asian wheat buyers are really quiet, I think everyone is trying to assess the extent of demand destruction due to the coronavirus,” said one Singapore-based trader who sells wheat.

The most-active wheat contract on the Chicago Board Of Trade lost 0.2% to $5.29-1/4 a bushel by 0337 GMT, after having dropped to a low of $5.26-1/2 a bushel earlier in the session.

Corn fell 0.5% to $3.21-1/4 a bushel, while soybeans were up 0.4% at $8.42-1/2 a bushel.

A slowdown in demand due to the coronavirus outbreak piled pressure on wheat prices. The market faced more headwinds from forecasts for rains in key production areas of Europe.

Still, losses were limited after Russia, the world’s top exporter, said it would curb shipments.

Russia will suspend grain exports until July 1 only after the grain it declared in its second-quarter quota has been shipped, the agriculture ministry said on Sunday.

Russia previously set the quota for grain exports of 7 million tonnes for April through June following the virus outbreak. This online grain export quota ran out on Sunday, data from the ministry showed.

A collapse in ethanol demand linked to the pandemic continued to drag down the corn market and forecasts for some good planting weather in the U.S. Midwest added pressure.

Archer Daniels Midland Co said on Thursday it would temporarily idle ethanol production at two of its corn dry mill facilities due to lower gasoline demand.

China agreed to buy 136,000 tonnes of U.S. soybeans, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said on Friday morning, the third straight day an export deal with the world’s top soy importer was announced.

Chinese buyers have booked 606,000 tonnes of U.S. soybeans this week - all for delivery in the 2019/20 marketing year - as futures prices fell to an 11-month low due to the fallout from the pandemic.

However, there was still caution given relatively modest purchases since the signing of a U.S.-Chinese trade deal earlier this year, when Beijing pledged to ramp up agricultural imports.

The USDA also said private exporters reported the sale of 125,000 tonnes of soybeans and 589,395 tonnes of corn to Mexico.

Large speculators increased their net short position in Chicago Board of Trade corn futures in the week to April 21, regulatory data released on Friday showed.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s weekly commitments of traders report also showed that non-commercial traders, a category that includes hedge funds, increased their net short position in CBOT wheat and switched to a net short position in soybeans. (Reporting by Naveen Thukral; Editing by Aditya Soni and Subhranshu Sahu)

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