Now that the wheat price is becoming more spastic, all the forecasters are climbing out from under their economic rocks and calling it the Big Top. Where were all these folks when wheat was building up momentum?
Why would you listen to someone call the top when they did not call the bottom? Yes, stories of wheat tops abound.
So why am I talking about wheat if my focus is on rice? It is because the price of rice fell to a $4.11 per bushel discount to wheat recently, the lowest level in perhaps 100 years. It is because those who really called the wheat bottom and predicted the rise are slow to call the top, unlike all the self-appointed wheat bears out there.
Columbus Day was Monday, Oct. 8. That was an appropriate way to usher in the supposed top for wheat. Columbus discovered a New World. We are into a New World for the food grains.
The old thinking does not work so well anymore, although economic models inside universities will continue to crank out old price solutions to a new situation. Here is the problem.
In the good old days for rice and wheat, high prices cut back food consumption as people went from three meals a day to two, or in the case of North Korea, one.
Now the big populations of Asia will not cut back. These countries are prosperous. The emerging nations have a disposable income base almost two-thirds of the United States.
Twenty years ago that number was closer to one-third. The majority of this population eats rice, not wheat, as a basic food staple.
When the price of feed goes up, you cut livestock herds and meat prices and feed grain demand plunges. But this world will not tolerate a cutback in food demand for food grains. This fact is totally lost on the wheat price top pickers.
And if feed grain prices plunge now, they go into feeding an SUV.
So now we have three demands for grains: food for wheat and rice, feed and food for corn and soybeans and fuel for the cheapest grain and/or oilseed. So, we have large population bases that will not cut food demand and we have growing biofuel demand underneath the market place, fueled by ambitious politicians and innate fear of the instability of the Middle East and its oil output.
Grain demand is actually out of control, but old time grain thinkers have not faced the facts. The cure for higher prices is higher prices, but when people have a lot more money, about twice as much as 20 years ago, and grains have hooked their price wagon to an energy star, it may take prices really high.
I would not be surprised if before it is all over, rice trades at a $2 per bushel premium to wheat. At current rice prices, that would mean wheat goes to $3 per bushel.
That ain’t going to happen, folks, not in this New World for grain prices. Where is Columbus when we need him?