Soybeans May Lose Less Land to Corn Than Expected

The U.S. is awash in soybeans, the result of the trade war with China — which has crimped exports — and a string of bumper crops that are clogging storage bins. Although farmers were expected to respond by planting more corn this year while cutting back sharply on soybeans, there is skepticism that a large rush to corn will actually occur.

Soybeans may be nearly as profitable as corn in the Midwest this year, said economist Gary Schnitkey of the University of Illinois after comparing likely expenses and revenue from the two crops. “Projected returns call into question assumptions of large switches of acres from soybeans to corn,” wrote Schnitkey at the farmdoc Daily blog.

Traders expect soybean plantings of 86.1 million acres this spring, down by 3.5% from 2018, according to surveys released by Reuters and Bloomberg on Wednesday. Based on conditions last fall, the USDA has projected a plunge of 7.5% in soybean plantings, while corn plantings would grow by a bit more than 3%, to 92 million acres. The USDA’s annual Outlook Forum, which opens today, is traditionally a time when its analysts update their figures.

A year ago, soybeans were expected to become a perennial challenger to corn as the most widely planted crop nationwide, due to strong global demand for the oilseed, especially in China. Soy plantings nearly equaled corn plantings in 2017 and nosed ahead last year — 89.2 million acres of soybeans vs. 89.1 million acres of corn. With the soybean stockpile forecast to swell to a record 910 million bushels by the time this year’s crop is ready for harvest, the common belief has been that corn would be more profitable this year, while the prospects for soybeans hinge on trade negotiations.


NRCRI suggests diversification of cassava produce

National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), has proposed product diversification as a remedy to retain Nigeria’s position as one of the world’s leading producers of cassava.

Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Institute, Prof. Ukpabi Joseph Ukpabi made the suggestion during an interview with AgroNigeria at the National Stakeholders Workshop on the prevention of cassava brown streak disease in Nigeria, organised by West African Virus Epidemiology (WAVE) recently in Abuja.

Prof. Ukpabi stressed the need to diversify the uses of cassava in the country to serve other purposes other than food consumption.

According to him,“Product Diversification is the key. We need to diversify the use of cassava as 30% of our cassava is being consumed as human food but if you go to some countries like Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, majority of their cassava are exported to Europe. We need to know how to diversify the market because of international policies.”

The CEO noted that the lifting of the ban on exporting cassava would be beneficial to the country, while maintaining that the momentum can only be built if the produce is being utilised both for food, livestock, and industrial purposes.

He also admonished that farmers should ensure the quality of their products because international trade requires certain precautions and standards.

On the varieties of cassava, Prof. Ukpabi added that the leaves would also be utilised and exported to China to generate more income for the farmers and subsequently improve the economy of the nation.

He further stated that any country that possesses the wealth of cassava can never face famine, while also highlighting the need to prevent viruses and diseases from crippling the cassava value chain.

“If there is excess rainfall, drought or starvation, famine comes in. Because cassava is a hardened crop, it can withstand some harsh condition so based on that, we take cassava very serious. By our local tradition, we consider yam as the king of all crops but when it comes to cassava, we overlook the kingship and look at the one that is sustainable in terms of food security in Nigeria which brings me to WAVE.”

“Due to the problem of viruses wiping out our cassava crops, anything that will affect the crop will affect Nigeria and because we have that mandate to research into cassava, we are willing to collaborate with international agencies like IITA, universities, state governments, farmers, food processors and extension organisations to make sure that we have food security and generation of income for farmers, processors and even the marketers.”He explained.

While commending the organisers of the event, Prof. Ukpabi noted that WAVE is not limited to Nigeria or West Africa alone, but also stretches across Africa.


Brazil’s Safras cuts soybeans estimate slightly, weather stops worsening

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazilian agribusiness consultancy Safras & Mercado announced a small cut in its projection for the country’s 2018/2019 soybean crop in a statement on Friday, as weather stopped worsening in key growing regions.

Safras cut its projection to 115.402 million tonnes from a 115.718 million-tonne forecast in January, as the effects of a drought that has stressed fields subsided.

“The climate has improved over the last few weeks in practically all regions, preventing further losses to the crop,” Safras said. “Our survey of fields showed us that only minor adjustments had to be made.”

Last month, poor weather led Safras to slash its forecast for Brazil’s output this season by 5 percent, from the 122.223 million tonnes it had estimated in November.

In a separate statement on Friday, Safras also revised its projection for Brazil’s center-south corn production, to 93.305 million tonnes from the 93.366 million tonnes forecast in January. The new estimate represents a 16.5 percent increase from output in the previous cycle, when it was corn, rather than soy, that suffered from the effects of a drought in top Brazilian growing states.

Brazilian center-south farmers will produce an estimated 62.8 million tonnes of so-called second corn this cycle, a 29 percent increase from the previous year, according to the statement.

The second-corn crop, which is planted after soybeans are harvested, will benefit from a projected 6.9 percent increase in planted area and an expected rise in yields.

“Second corn estimates are expected to offset losses in the first corn cycle,” Safras said.


Are Soybeans Overpriced?

Despite all of the rumors surrounding the on again, off again trade meeting of President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, new crop soybean contracts broke $9.50 Wednesday. Are they overvalued? According to AgriTalk host Chip Flory most analysts say they are, including Dr. Frayne Olson, professor of agribusiness and applied economics at North Dakota State University.

“When I try and do the numbers backwards and say, well, if you look at the November contract, what is the implication for planted acreage? What are the implications for U.S. production, I can’t quite get the numbers to work,” he told Flory on AgriTalk. “I think what’s happening, my opinion again, is that we have some optimism built in. I think there’s a little bit of a risk premium that’s built into this this market because of not only some of the conditions weather-wise in Brazil and, you know, most expectations are that Brazilian crop is getting smaller. But then also I think there’s expectations that we’re looking positive with a trade deal.

He added there’s a phycological battle going on. Despite the possibility for a solid trade deal with China, Olson said the damage has already been done.

“We’ve seen a massive shift in basis levels again, that’s all because of the transportation issues. About 75% of the beans grown in North Dakota get shipped to the PNW ports, about 98% of those get on a boat and ended up in China,” he explained. “So, we were and still are literally on the front lines of the soybean trade issues.”

While he does believe China will start buying U.S. soybeans again, he predicts they won’t ever buy at the levels they have in the past.

“In my view, there’s already been a fundamental shift and we’re trying to figure out what this new path of the soybean market is going to look like,” he said. “I do think also how that path plays out will be heavily impacted by these trade negotiations, and if there’s some kind of requirement that the Chinese purchase U.S. soybeans or whether the Chinese are given flexibility to purchase from who they want to. There’s still a lot of moving parts.”

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is in Beijing this week for trade talks. While White House officials previously indicated the two presidents would not meet prior to their March 1 trade deadline, on Wednesday a USDA official said the two will meet at some point in March.


Agriculture, Panacea To Unemployment -Expert

The Managing Director of Jor Farms Limited, Jenkin Ben has described agriculture as a major panacea to the problem of youth unemployment and self sustenance among the youths in the country.
Ben who made the assertion on Saturday in Port Harcourt, during an interview with The Tide, said agriculture advances development and unlocks the potential of unrealized markets at the bottom of the economic ladder.
He charged government to create enabling agricultural environment to boost youth engagement in the sector, saying that government should commit more resources to youth agro-skills acquisition, research institutes, modern farm implements, agro inputs, extension services, availability of improved variety of crops and microcredit loans to young farmers.
The agric consultant also urged the youth to embrace agriculture, integrate themselves and create more cooperative societies in order to tap from the enormous resources available via financial institutions and donor agencies.
He encouraged youths to learn the art of advanced farming techniques and use of better quality seedlings to boost their annual yields.
According to him, there were influx of empowered, independent and skilled individuals into the agricultural industry, who were set to be contributors to achieving sustainable development in the country, but noted that the government had not shown serious commitment towards encouraging and supporting the sector.
He therefore, called on governments at all levels to make more financial and material input that would attract more youths and agro-allied industries into the sector.


4 Ways Artificial Intelligence Will Drive Digital Transformation In Agriculture

The United Nations reports that about 1/3 of the food produced globally each year is lost or wasted, and I’d reckon that number is not too surprising. Those of us in the United States see evidence of waste each time we go out to eat or do a weekly purge of jam-packed refrigerators. Outside the waste, however, there’s a greater problem many of us don’t realize. Just as the amount of food wasted globally is skyrocketing, the global demand for food is, ironically, set to rise.

With exploding populations, global warming, and less land available for cultivation, we’re actually facing a global food shortage of epidemic proportions. How will we manage to feed and sustain 9 billion humans estimated to populate planet earth by 2050? And how will we support the 59-98 percent increase in food consumption that population is likely to need? Like many issues humans are facing in the world today, we are seeing digital transformation in agriculture, most specifically in the form of artificial intelligence (AI).

Sensors and Data

By far, the greatest development in agricultural technology (AgTech) comes in the form of connected sensors and the IoT. As you’d expect, successful agricultural production in digital transformation is becoming a numbers game. With the help of AgTech, connected farmers are beginning to share data, and make improvements in input, efficiencies, and operations processes, largely due to AI-driven sensors. These sensors can be ground, aerial, or machine-based, and all hold huge potential for agricultural production.

On the ground, for instance, sensors can monitor the quality of plants, soil, animal health, and weather. They can determine the best place to plant for the highest yield, and how much to plant to prevent waste. In the air, drones and satellites can monitor crop health and pest disease, preventing the surprise of a lost crop at harvest time. Farm equipment can also capture data on anticipated crop production. For instance, high-speed planting equipment can provide “as planted” estimates on crop yield and harvest output, allowing farmers to plan for sales forecasting, overflow and shortage. That’s not all. Robotic harvesting equipment can even use AI to pick ripe fruit and vegetables at just the right time, saving time, manpower, and waste. Talk about digital transformation in agriculture!


Enhancing Nigeria Agriculture Chain

A recent report by the World Bank on Agriculture Finance and Agricultural insurance said ” There is an ever increasing need to invest in agriculture due to a drastic rise in global population and changing dietary preferences of the growing middle class in emerging markets towards higher value agricultural products.

“In addition, climate risk increase the need for investment to make agriculture more resilient to such risks. Estimate suggest that demand for food will increase by 70% by 2050 and at least $80 million annual investment will be needed to meet the demand, most of which needs to come from the private sector. Financial sector institutions in developing countries lend a disproportionately lower share of their loan portfolios to agriculture compared to the agriculture sector’s share of GDP.

“On the other side, the growth and deepening of agriculture finance markets is constrained by a variety of factors which include: inadequate or ineffective policies; high transaction costs to reach remote rural populations, covariance of production, market, and price risks; and absence of adequate instruments to manage risks; low levels of demand due to fragmentation and incipient development of value chains; and lack of expertise of financial institutions in managing agricultural loan portfolios.”

It noted that the development of agriculture requires financial services that can support larger agriculture investments and agriculture-related infrastructure that require long-term funding (given that currently transportation and logistics costs are too high, especially for landlocked countries), a greater inclusion of youth and women in the sector, and advancements in technology (both in terms of mechanising the agricultural processes and leveraging mobile phones and electronic payment platforms to enhance access and reduce transaction costs).
It further stated that agriculture finance and agricultural insurance are strategically important for eradicating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

Globally, there are an estimated 500 million small-holder farming households – representing 2.5 billion people – relying, to varying degrees, on agricultural production for their livelihoods.

Historically, Nigeria was considered an agricultural giant and a model to other countries up until the early 70s. A study carried out then had indicated that; agriculture was the main contributor to Nigeria’s economy, contributing over 64 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product, providing employment for over 70 per cent of the population and provided 95 per cent of the food needed to feed Nigerians.

That is why the federal government has through its agricultural policy continued to encourage private sector participation in the sector. This has been the focal point of the federal government’s effort in diversifying the Nigerian economy through the promotion of agriculture and Guinness Nigeria Plc recently keyed into the government’s initiative through the launch of its “Grow with Nigeria,” in Abuja recently.

Speaking on the initiative, the Managing Director of Guinness Nigeria, Baker Magunda, said the move was a demonstration of the company’s commitment to the federal government’s policy on diversification and local content.
According to him, the initiative would also support the growth of the agricultural value chain and small holder farmers who form an integral part of the brewer’s business.

“Over the last 20 years, our business has consistently sourced its entire core ingredients such as sorghum and malt extract locally through the various local raw material chains. Currently, our local content sourcing is 75 per cent and we plan to increase this significantly within the next couple of years.


China to buy more of US Soybeans

In a letter read aloud at the White House, China’s President Xi Jinping said Beijing will buy more U.S. farm exports, a decision that President Trump hailed on Thursday as a sign of good faith in ongoing negotiations to end the trade war between the nations. Trump said a deal “will be made, if it’s made, between myself and President Xi” before his March 1 trigger for higher U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.

“That’s going to make our farmers very happy,” said Trump during a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, who led a Chinese delegation in two days of talks with U.S. trade officials. Trump said negotiators had made “tremendous progress.” In his letter, Xi said he hoped for a speedy and mutually satisfying agreement. One of the White House’s objectives is increased Chinese purchases of U.S. manufactured goods, services, and agricultural products, to reduce China’s trade surplus.

“Mr. President, in our last phone call, you said you wanted for China to buy more agricultural products. I have made some arrangements about which, I believe, you might have been briefed,” wrote Xi. Liu said China would buy 5 million tonnes of soybeans, which would nearly double its soybean purchases so far this marketing year.

“Wow,” responded Trump. Liu added “per day,” according to a White House transcript, though an administration official told Reuters that a single purchase of 5 million tonnes was intended. The USDA expects a record U.S. soybean stockpile of 955 million bushels, equal to 26 million tonnes, at the end of this marketing year on Aug. 30. The 2018 soybean crop was a largest ever: 4.6 billion bushels, or 125 million tonnes.


Nigeria to host 5th Agro-food expo – Official

Eight countries are expected to participate in the fifth Agro-food and Plastprintpack Nigeria 2019, aimed at providing solutions to the challenging needs of the entire agricultural value chain.

Mr Akin Alabi, the Managing Partner, Corporate Farmers International, made this known in a statement on Tuesday in Lagos.

The countries to participate in the event scheduled to hold from March 26 to March 28 in Lagos are Belarus, China, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Turkey.

The statement quoted Alabi as saying that Nigeria was fast becoming Africa’s largest food market, according to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

“Nigeria invests heavily in its food production increasing import of food processing and packaging machinery by 15 per cent in 2017, amounting to about 262 million Euros.

“This amount makes Nigeria the second largest importer of packaging technologies in sub-Saharan Africa, while imports for packaging technologies increased by 34 per cent in 2018.

“This double digit growth in 2017 and 2018, according to the German Engineering Federation, and the Federal Government’s forecasts will also cause a double-digit growth in 2019,” he said.

Alabi said that the event would comprise three sub-brands; Agro-Tech Nigeria, Food and Beverage Tech Nigeria, and Food and Hospitality Nigeria.

“Agro-Nigeria has been organised by Fair trade Messe and DLG German Agricultural Society since 2015, focusing on crop and animal production, agricultural engineering and bio-energy.”


How high-tech agriculture is transforming the fortunes of Nigerian rice farmers

New planting and harvesting techniques have transformed the fortunes of rice farmers in Nigeria’s agricultural belt, turning family-run plots into thriving businesses.

Many have doubled or tripled their profit with higher yields and better-quality rice that gives smallholder farmers access to a wider market.

Three years ago, Mohammed Sani scraped enough to feed his family from a 1.5-hectare plot in Kebbi State. After levelling the land, acquiring superior seeds and changing planting techniques from a scattering style known as broadcasting to transplanting nursery-grown crops in neat rows, his output has increased by more than 50 per cent.

“I’ve realised rice farming is a business,” he says.

Rice is a staple food in Africa but supply falls far short of demand with yields in the sub-Saharan region among the lowest in the world. Pressure is mounting on local agriculture to feed rapidly growing populations and reduce reliance on expensive foreign rice.

In Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country, productivity has increased but 55 per cent of demand is still met by imports. Government efforts to reach self-sufficiency and improve food securityare contingent on the success of small-scale farmers like Sani, who account for more than 80 per cent of cultivation.

But slow mechanisation, insufficient yields and poor quality rice – compounded by a weak market infrastructure – have left them unable to compete with consumer preferences for imported varieties.

In the past, you risked “losing a tooth” on the stones in Nigerian rice but there’s a growing awareness that now it matches up to imported brands says Abubakar Abba Adamu, CEO of Labana, one of the largest rice mills in north-west Nigeria.

Labana provides training and high quality seeds to thousands of farmers in Kebbi State then guarantees purchase of their harvest under the Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI), a project that supports value chains in African rice farming.