Nutrien sees big corn comeback in 2020, following U.S. floods

Nutrien expects U.S. farmers to plant as many as 95 million acres of corn in 2020.  Photo: File/Greg Berg

Winnipeg | Reuters – Fertilizer producer and farm supply dealer Nutrien Ltd expects U.S. farmers to plant as many as 95 million acres (38.5 million hectares) of corn next year, the most in seven years, after a frustrating year of floods, its chief executive said.

The wet conditions left millions of acres unplanted across the U.S. farm belt, but have also lifted corn prices and given farmers incentive to sow more next year, Chief Executive Chuck Magro said on a quarterly conference call on Tuesday.

Chicago December corn futures traded on Tuesday at $4.21 per bushel, up more than 10 percent from a year earlier.

“We do expect a pretty significant rebound in market fundamentals in 2020,” Magro said. “You can see it in crop pricing futures but you can also see it in some of the business we’re seeing in crop protection (products) in the third quarter.”

“2020 is setting up to be a very good agricultural year.”

Shares of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based Nutrien jumped 8 percent in Toronto, despite cutting its full-year profit forecast due to wet U.S. weather this spring that lowered spending by farmers on supplies such as fertilizer.

The company’s quarterly results nonetheless showed resilience against what Nutrien called “the worst U.S. planting season in history,” Raymond James analyst Steve Hansen said.

Nutrien is the world’s biggest fertilizer producer by capacity, and owns the largest network of farm retail supply stores in the United States.

It estimates U.S. corn plantings in 2019 between 85 million and 87 million acres, the lowest in a decade. Corn is a particularly important crop for agribusiness because it requires more fertilizer than others such as soybeans.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that U.S. farmers planted 91.7 million acres of corn this year. But the department is taking the rare step of conducting a fresh survey of farmers amid doubts by traders that USDA’s current estimate captures the weather damage.

The new estimate is expected on Aug. 12.

– Additional reporting by Tom Polansek in Chicago.

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