World in brief


App lets ag students beef up on economics

CHICAGO (Reuters) — Bovine avatars with funny hats in an app are being corralled to help teach young people in the United States about agricultural markets and risk.

The CME Group futures exchange launched the app, called Risk Ranch, for tablets and smartphones as an electronic version of a board game called Commodity Carnival first brought to state fairs in 2013 by CME and 4-H.

This year, the app offers a way for children, parents and teachers to play the single-player game all year.

“We heard from educators who asked us, ‘how can I get this in my classroom?’” said Laurie Bischel, CME’s executive director of corporate marketing and communications.

The app has been downloaded about 2,500 times since its launch this summer.

The goal of the game is to bring a cartoon steer to market at the best price, with a maximum score of $2,200 — roughly in line with current cash prices, which are near historic highs.

Players start by naming their steer and choosing its body colour. Optional accessories include a hat or sunglasses, or an authentic-looking ear tag.

Players get five coins to spend on feed, farm equipment and medicine.

The game then sends the bovine avatars into a virtual pinball machine where they careen through a series of exploding red pegs that represent threats to profits ranging from a disease outbreak to rising gas prices and even price-depressing news.

As the avatar cows tumble, players tilt the device to try to collect more coins. In later rounds, these coins can buy futures, which offer temporary protection from the hazards.

An internal competition among CME staff threw up a best score of $1,966, CME spokesperson Chris Grams said.


India notifies WTO of $62B farm support

GENEVA, Switzerland (Reuters) — India spent $61.8 billion on support for farmers in 2010-11, it said in a World Trade Organization filing, a document that will be pored over for evidence that India has breached agreed limits on agricultural subsidies.

The United States and other WTO members have criticized India for being almost a decade behind with notifications on farm support and for vetoing a landmark WTO agreement because it wanted more attention paid to its demand to be able to stockpile subsidized crops to ensure food security.

The notification will enable India to argue that it is meeting its obligations, reinforcing its call for more freedom to subsidize farmers to help feed the poor.

India’s filing, covering the seven years from 2004-05 to 2010-11, detailed subsidies that are permitted by the WTO, as well as other measures that it said were exempt from the global trade body’s rules.


Ukraine starts winter wheat sowing

KIEV, Ukraine (Reuters) — Ukrainian farms have started winter grain sowing for the 2015 grain harvest, the agriculture ministry said last week.

Farms have seeded more than 491,000 acres of winter wheat and 8,400 acres of winter barley as of Sept. 9, it said in a statement.

The ministry said the area under winter grain was likely to total 18.5 million acres this year, including 15.3 million acres of winter wheat and 2.6 million of winter barley.

Ukraine sowed 15 million acres of winter wheat and 2.7 million acres of winter barley a year earlier.

Winter wheat accounts for around 95 percent of Ukraine’s overall wheat output while winter barley accounts about 30 percent of the total harvest of the commodity.

Ukraine harvested around 24.4 million tonnes of wheat and 9.3 million tonnes of barley in 2014, according to preliminary data.


West Europe harvest large, quality down

LONDON, U.K. (Reuters) — Western Europe’s wheat harvest is in its final stages with the crop set to be larger than last year but with a decline in quality, particularly in the region’s top producer, France.

Wheat harvests in France and No. 2 producer Germany are virtually complete. In Britain, harvesting has largely wound down in key growing regions in England while much of the remaining area is still to be cut in Scotland.

In France, the market is awaiting first results from an official quality survey due to be presented by FranceAgriMer.

“The quality is going to be below that of a normal year, but there will still be some good quality crop,” Lucile Brazzini of analysts ODA said.

A large share of new crop is viewed as falling between normal milling and animal feed grades.

“The market is going to have to find a home for this intermediate quality wheat,” Brazzini said.

Concerns about crop quality have prompted traders to turn to wheat from other countries to fulfill domestic and overseas contracts.

Larger crops are expected in France, Germany and Britain, the region’s third largest producer.

France’s farm ministry recently raised its estimate of 2014 soft wheat production to 37.5 million tonnes from 37.3 million last month, up two percent on 2013 production.

Private sector analysts are pegging the French crop higher at around 38 million tonnes.

Germany’s 2014 wheat crop will increase by 12 percent on the year to 27.9 million tonnes, the German agriculture ministry said.

One grains analyst said the forecast for Germany might be reduced slightly as rain hampered the final 10 percent of the harvest.

In Britain, most farms are reporting yields that are 10 percent above their average level, analyst Susan Twining of crop consultants ADAS said.

“Quality on the whole has been pretty good,” she said, noting protein levels had been on the low side but generally acceptable while Hagberg Falling Numbers and specific weights have been above average.


Chinese corn expected to decline

BEIJING, China (Reuters) — China is likely to harvest 2.2 percent less corn in 2014 due to drought, the first fall in output since 2010, according to the latest estimate issued by an official think-tank.

The China National Grain and Oils Information Center estimated corn output this year at 213.8 million tonnes after drought damaged corn crops in three northeastern provinces. The forecast would represent China’s second highest output.

Lower corn production in the world’s second largest consumer of the grain comes at a time when China sits on record stock and the world’s top exporter, the United States, is on track for record production, which pressuresglobal prices.

The centre revised down its forecast corn output by 8.5 million tonnes this month from last month’s estimate.

The estimate was in line with an influential private consulting firm, the Shanghai JC Intelligence Co. Ltd., which also cut its estimate by eight million tonnes in its latest report. China’s corn harvest is due next month.

Despite the drought damage, China’s overall corn supply would be in surplus, with more than 60 million tonnes of stocks still held by state reserves, according to analysts.


Food prices nearfour-year low: FAO

ROME, Italy (Reuters) — World food prices in August hit their lowest since September 2010 as prices of all major food groups except meat fell, led by a sharp decline in dairy prices, the United Nation’s food agency said last week.

The Food and Agriculture Organization’s price index, which measures monthly price changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, averaged 196.6 points in August, down 3.6 percent from July.

A Russian ban on dairy imports from countries that have imposed sanctions on Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine pulled down dairy prices, which were already falling, FAO said.

FAO raised its forecast for global cereal production for 2014 to 2.512 billion tonnes, 14 million tonnes higher than its previous forecast. That put 2014 output on track to be just 0.5 percent short of last year’s record harvest.

The agency also hiked its world wheat output forecast to 716.5 million tonnes, close to 2013’s record level, from a previous estimate of 707.2 million due to larger-than-expected crops in China, Russia, Ukraine and the United States.

World cereals stocks at the end of the 2015 season are set to be 616 million tonnes, 12 million tonnes above the previous forecast.

Meat prices bucked the trend to rise 1.2 percent on the month as demand in China supported imports and herd rebuilding in Australia reduced exportable supplies of beef.


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