US agriculture markets jump as 'bone-chilling' weather hits farming belt
Bone-chilling cold across the US farm belt riled agriculture markets as concerns over crop damage and delayed export shipments sent prices of key food commodities soaring.
Exporters along the Gulf Coast, the country’s largest outlet for grains, scrambled for barge loads of corn and soybeans as two weeks of sub-freezing Midwest weather froze the Illinois River, a major grain barge shipping waterway.
In the Plains, hard red winter wheat prices hit the highest in six weeks on worries that crops sustained freeze damage, while cattle prices hit seven-week peaks on concerns over slowed beef cattle production at feedlots.
And although the harshest cold in the farm belt has likely passed, forecasters expect temperatures in the central US to remain well below normal through at least the end of the week.
“The worst may be over, but the damage is done,” said Drew Lerner, chief agricultural meteorologist with World Weather Inc.
“Ice accumulations will continue aggressively in the upper parts of the Mississippi and Illinois River basin over the next four days,” he said.
Prices for grain barges rallied for a second day on Wednesday as Gulf Coast exporters were forced to turn to shipments loaded along the Ohio River, which was not iced over.
“Exporters are trying to get some insurance bushels in their hands. There’s not going to be anything coming off the Illinois River for a couple of weeks,” said a grain barge trader who asked not to be named because he is not authorised to speak to media.