Russia's Agriculture Ministry this week increased the nation's estimated grain carryover stocks to 26 million tons from previous forecasts of 21.7 million tons. The announcement was the latest installment in a series of conflicting government data on the impact of the worst drought in at least 130 years.
But some analysts and traders suspect the Russian government estimate is off by as much as 35 percent. The naysayers peg the ending stocks figure somewhere between 17 and 21 million tons.
The impact of drought in parts of the former Soviet Union -- particularly Russia and Ukraine -- has been the dominant factor in global commodity markets all summer, including those on LaSalle Street.
The prognosticators were given new data to contemplate Friday, when the Agriculture Department released its latest U.S. production estimates and global supply and demand reports.
USDA's September Crop Production and World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates often receive less attention than its August and October reports. But this year, there has been a lot of debate surrounding production estimates for U.S. corn and soybean crops, and the ongoing tightening of world grain and oilseed supplies.
Last month, the Agriculture Department reported that the nation's farmers were on pace to produce the largest corn and soybean crops in history. Corn production was forecast at a record 13.4 billion bushels and soybean production at an all-time high of 3.4 billion bushels, both up two percent from previous records set in 2009. Meanwhile, corn yields were predicted to average a record-high 165 bushels per acre and soybean yields were expected to equal last year's record of 44 bushels per acre.
But on Friday, USDA released its September estimates. On corn, it predicts a national yield of 162.5 bushels per acre, with a total production of 13.16 billion bushels.
The U.S. government estimates soybean yields at 44.7 bushels per acre, with a total production of 3.48 billion bushels.
And, USDA estimated U.S. wheat ending stocks at 952 million bushels in its August report, but decreased that number to 902 million bushels Friday, reflecting reduced production in the former Soviet Union.
The report had mixed implications for the markets. Corn prices moved higher following the report's release. Wheat prices and soybean prices were both under pressure.