The first US Department of Agriculture (USDA) crop planting report of the year was released this week, showing that 2% of its anticipated maize area had been planted.

The 2021 US maize area is expected to reach 36.9 million ha (Mha), 2.2% below trade expectations.

In addition, US stocks of maize at the beginning of March sat at 195.6 million tonnes (Mt), 1.7Mt tighter than trade expectations.

As a result, global grain markets ended strong. The bullish signals for maize were enough to outweigh the bearish wheat news, according to the UK's Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

US farmers intend to plant 18.8Mha to wheat in 2021, 3.1% above trade expectations and 4.5% up year on year.

Furthermore, US stocks of all wheat types were 2.8% above trade estimates at 35.8Mt.

Weather dominates

Weather stories in northern and southern hemispheres will likely be the key drivers of market volatility over the coming months.

In Brazil, safrinha (second crop) maize planting is almost complete, but soil moisture is lacking after la Niña.

Longer-range weather forecasts suggest only average rainfall in the next month, which may hinder crop prospects, according to the AHDB.

Global trader StoneX has reduced its estimate of safrinha maize by 3.65Mt to 77.65Mt.

North American weather is also expected to be key, as maize planting progresses and other crops develop.

The USDA crop report showed winter wheat conditions to be broadly in line with the five-year average.

Elsewhere, Russian analytics firm Sovecon cut its estimate of 2020/21 Russian wheat exports by 200t, to 38.9Mt.