Building Up A Potential Cuban Market For Soybeans

U.S. Soybean Balance Sheet adjustments show a tighter market.  Tightening U.S. soybean supplies, and the reasons behind it, are highlighted in the latest USDA supply and demand estimates.

The US soybean industry has been involved in recent efforts to re-establish a business relationship with Cuba.  Ron Moore, American Soybean Association

Expanded Panama Canal Accepting Reservations

More than 100 Neopanamax Vessel Reservations Have Been Made for Commercial Transit

China COSCO Shipping won the draw for the first transit through the Expanded Panama Canal during the waterway’s inauguration on Sunday, June 26. Andronikos, the Neopanamax containership COSCO Shipping Panama left the Greek Port of Piraeus on June 11, entering the new Agua Clara Locks early Sunday morning to make the inaugural transit from the new Pacific-facing Cocoli Locks as part of the formal ceremony.

More than 100 Neopanamax ships have already made reservations for commercial transit through the new locks, which began on June 27, 2016, following the historic inauguration.

Panama Canal Administrator, Jorge L. Quijano. “This is the route that unites the world…We are excited and prepared to continue providing the same reliable and efficient service within the Expanded Panama Canal that our customers have come to expect through the years.”

Panama Canal Expansion

The Panama Canal Expansion is the largest project at the Canal since its original construction. The project created a new lane of traffic along the Canal through the construction of a new set of locks doubling the waterway’s capacity. Works on the Panama Canal Expansion began on September 2007 at a total cost of US$5.2 billion.

With the expansion, Post-Panamax vessels will be able to transit through the Canal, with up to 13,000/14,000 TEUs. The Expansion will double the Canal’s capacity, having a direct impact on economies of scale and international maritime trade.

The Expansion Program is the Canal’s largest enhancement project. It included the construction of a new set of locks on the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the waterway and the excavation of more than 150 million cubic meters of material, creating a second lane of traffic and doubling the cargo capacity of the waterway. While the Expanded locks are 70 feet wider and 18 feet deeper than those in the original Canal, they use less water due to water-savings basins that recycle 60 percent of the water used per transit.

The Expansion Program Consists of Several Components

  • New Locks (Third Set of Locks): Construction of the new locks complexes on the Pacific and Atlantic sides. Each one of the locks complexes feature three chambers with three water-saving basins per chamber, a lateral filling and emptying system and rolling gates.
  • Pacific Access Channel: Excavation of the new access channel north of the new Pacific locks. The excavation of some 50 million cubic meters of material along a 6.1-kilometer span.
  • Improvement of Navigational Channels: Dredging of both Canal entrances, on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as the existing navigation channels in Culebra Cut and Gatun Lake.
  • Improvements to Water Supply: Rising Gatun Lake’s maximum operating level by 45 centimeters to improve the Canal’s water supply and draft dependability.


The Canal was handed over to Panama from U.S. control at the end of 1999.   The waterway has generated approximately $10B in direct income for the Central American nation and is responsible for about 40% of its GDP, factoring in related economic activity.  Each day 35 to 40 vessels transit the Panama Canal, handling an estimated 6 percent of world maritime commerce.   Meanwhile, Egypt’s Suez Canal recently lowered tariffs by up to 65% on large container vessels in an attempt to keep its traffic.

Panama Canal Expansion Opens Opportunities for U.S. Soy Transortation

Investment in U.S. inland-waterway infrastructure is needed, says U. S. Soy Farmers

June 26, 2016, St. Louis–U.S. soybean farmers now have access to faster and more efficient waterway transportation when delivering U.S. soy to international end users, but investment in U.S. inland-waterway infrastructure is required to optimize these efficiencies.

The long-awaited Panama Canal expansion opened today, doubling the waterway’s capacity. The new, larger lane allows more freight to be loaded on each vessel, decreases transit time and lowers transportation costs overall as compared with the original canal.

Transportation provides a competitive advantage

Transportation is not only necessary, it’s also a key aspect of the U.S. soy industry’s competitive advantage in the global marketplace. In fact, according to a soy-checkoff-funded study,  foreign soy buyers often pay as much attention to the timeliness of deliveries as they do to the price.  While the expansion offers U.S. soy opportunities to capitalize on faster, more efficient shipping, it also offers those opportunities to many other countries, including U.S. soy’s biggest competitors: Brazil and Argentina.

For U.S. soybean farmers to be able to fully capitalize on the expanded canal, domestic transportation infrastructure is in need of maintenance and repair.   Improvements are needed to accommodate larger ships and the increased volume of commodities moving via U.S. inland waterways.

“We need to focus on improving our infrastructure, especially the locks and dams on our inland waterways,” says Mark Seib, a farmer-leader on both the United Soybean Board and Soy Transportation Coalition from Poseyville, Indiana. “Panama has done an excellent job of maintaining and improving its infrastructure for over 100 years, and it’s time to step up the work on ours.”

Panama Canal moves soy exports

The Panama Canal is integral to the movement of soy. Approximately 600 million bushels of U.S. soybeans annually transit the Panama Canal, making soy the No. 1 U.S. agricultural commodity using the canal.  In fact, 44 percent of total U.S. soy exports move through the canal.   “The transportation of soy beyond the elevator is the backbone of our industry,” says Seib. “Without a reliable transportation connection between supply and demand, soybean farmers would not be able to deliver their crop to end users at home and abroad.”

President Obama on the UK Decision to Leave the European Union

“The United Kingdom and the European Union will remain indispensable partners of the United States”–President Barack Obama

June 24, 2016-by Tanya Somanader, The White House–Last night, the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. President Obama issued the following statement:

“The people of the United Kingdom have spoken, and we respect their decision. The special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is enduring, and the United Kingdom’s membership in NATO remains a vital cornerstone of U.S. foreign, security, and economic policy. So too is our relationship with the European Union, which has done so much to promote stability, stimulate economic growth, and foster the spread of democratic values and ideals across the continent and beyond. The United Kingdom and the European Union will remain indispensable partners of the United States even as they begin negotiating their ongoing relationship to ensure continued stability, security, and prosperity for Europe, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the world.”

President Obama spoke by phone with UK Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In his call with Prime Minister Cameron, the President assured him that, in spite of the outcome, the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom, along with the United Kingdom’s membership in NATO, remain vital cornerstones of U.S. foreign, security, and economic policy.  The President also expressed his regret at the Prime Minister’s decision to step aside following a leadership transition and noted that the Prime Minister has been a trusted partner and friend, whose counsel and shared dedication to democratic values, the special relationship, and the Transatlantic community are highly valued. The President also observed that the EU, which has done so much to promote stability, stimulate economic growth, and foster the spread of democratic values and ideals across the continent and beyond, will remain an indispensable partner of the United States. The President and Prime Minister concurred that they are confident that the United Kingdom and the EU will negotiate a productive way forward to ensure financial stability, continued trade and investment, and the mutual prosperity they bring.

In his call with Chancellor Merkel, both leaders said they regretted the decision but respected the will of the British people. The two leaders agreed that the economic and financial teams of the G-7 partners will coordinate closely to ensure all are focused on financial stability and economic growth. The President and the Chancellor affirmed that Germany and the EU will remain indispensable partners of the United States. The leaders also noted that they looked forward to the opportunity to underscore the strength and enduring bond of transatlantic ties at the NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland, July 8-9.

Secretary Jack Lew of the Treasury Department also issued a statement today:

“The people of the United Kingdom have spoken and we respect their decision. We will work closely with both London and Brussels and our international partners to ensure continued economic stability, security, and prosperity in Europe and beyond. We continue to monitor developments in financial markets. I have been in regular contact in recent weeks with my counterparts and financial market participants in the UK, EU and globally and we are continuing to consult closely. The UK and other policy makers have the tools necessary to support financial stability, which is key to economic growth.”

Secretary Lew also joined the finance ministers of the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, and the U.S.) and Central Bank Governors in making the following statement:

We, G7 Ministers and Governors, respect the intention expressed today by the people of the United Kingdom to exit from the European Union.

 We are monitoring market developments following the outcome of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. We affirm our assessment that the UK economy and financial sector remain resilient and are confident that the UK authorities are well-positioned to address the consequences of the referendum outcome. 

We recognize that excessive volatility and disorderly movements in exchange rates can have adverse implications for economic and financial stability.

 G7 central banks have taken steps to ensure adequate liquidity and to support the functioning of markets. We stand ready to use the established liquidity instruments to that end.

We will continue to consult closely on market movements and financial stability, and cooperate as appropriate. We remain united and continue to maintain our solidarity as G7.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Passes Plant Genetics Treaty

June 23, 2016, Washington DC–The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations passed, by voice vote, ratification of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The Treaty, supported by agricultural organizations, would create a specialized, global system for the management and exchange of plant genetic resources from international gene banks. The U.S. signed the treaty in 2002, but the full Senate must ratify the agreement–the next step following the committee’s action. Even without ratification, U.S. plant breeders must abide by its legally binding material transfer agreement in order to access international germplasm.

“No country, including the U.S., is self-sufficient when it comes to seed,” said ASTA president and CEO Andrew LaVigne.  John Schoenecker, American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) executive committee member, testified on behalf of the seed industry.  “Without ratification of the Treaty, U.S. agriculture could be at a huge disadvantage. As all types of agriculture are asked to do more, it’s critical that our researchers have the ability to access the most basic genetic material needed to improve seeds and food for the future…Crop diversity is equally important to all sectors of agriculture, including organic, conventional, public and private.…Secure access to global plant materials will enable American Seed Trade Association members and the broader industry to supply the best seeds to our customers, so they can grow more of the best food tomorrow and into the future.” 

The Treaty has been ratified by more than 139 countries, many of which are both competitors of the U.S. as well as important sources of seed exchange for public and private breeders. Ratification of the bipartisan Treaty would require no changes in existing U.S. laws and no additional appropriations.