Supply concerns shoved U.S. corn futures to highs not seen since mid-2008 Tuesday.
Nearby corn for March delivery rose 4 3/4 cents, or 0.7%, to $7.27 1/4 a bushel at the Chicago Board of Trade, the highest close for a front-month contract since July 3, 2008. Corn for May delivery, the most-active contract, gained 4 1/2 cents, or 0.6%, to $7.35 1/2.
Futures could continue rising as users of the grain remain worried about supplies, which are projected to come in at a 15-year low at the end of the crop's marketing year on Aug. 31, analysts said. Prices have rallied recently in an attempt to curb strong demand and entice farmers to expand plantings to replenish inventories.
Farmers are expected to increase corn plantings 4.3% to 92 million acres this spring due to high prices, according to an estimate issued last week at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's annual outlook conference. Yet poor weather could derail attempts to harvest a large crop next fall.
"With the tightness of the supply/usage sheet for this year, we could probably see some higher prices into June and July," said Sean McGillivray, vice president of Great Pacific Trading Co., a commodities brokerage firm in Oregon.
Futures felt additional support from rallying crude oil prices, as ethanol is made from corn, and from fund buying at the beginning of the month, traders said. Commodity funds bought an estimated 5,000 contracts in light trading, a modest amount, after selling contracts in early dealings.
"It looks like corn, especially with crude activity like it is, should be really well supported until we get a major change in acres or crude oil prices," said Brian Hoops, president of Midwest Market Solutions.
The USDA will issue its next update on plantings March 31.
In other markets, ethanol futures closed at a 31-month high. Ethanol for May delivery rose 1.6 cents, or 0.6%, to $2.582 per gallon at the CBOT.
Oat futures advanced as the market continued to recover from a fall to a nearly 12-week low last week. Oats for May delivery jumped 8 1/2 cents, or 2.2%, to $3.89 1/2 a bushel.