U.S. Government Shutdown Leaves Big Ag Data Shrouded in Mystery

(Bloomberg) -- As the U.S. government shutdown postpones the Jan. 11 release of monthly market-moving agriculture data, forecasting firms and traders are trying to plug the gap with their own crop estimates.

Gro Intelligence, a closely held data and analytics company, will endeavor to fill the void in two days with its own version of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s giant data dump at noon New York time. The agency last week postponed its monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, or WASDE, because of the shutdown, approaching a third week.

“This is really critical data for markets,” Sara Menker, chief executive officer of the four-year-old firm, said in a telephone interview.

U.S. Government Shutdown Leaves Big Ag Data Shrouded in Mystery

Analyst surveys by Bloomberg project lower estimates for corn and soybean production in the U.S., Brazil and Argentina. Grain prices have climbed this month in Chicago, partly on global supply concerns, and the oilseed is up on optimism that China will boost imports from the U.S. Futures markets lean heavily on reports include WASDE for indications on supply and demand, and some traders use algorithms to deal on the government figures.

Gro Intelligence, based in New York, plans to crunch some of the same data the USDA uses for estimates. The company uses crop, trade and weather data from around the world along with satellite imagery and artificial intelligence.

“It’s kind of hard to compete with the information network that the USDA has,” Michael McDougall, senior vice president at ED&F Man Capital Markets in New York, said in a phone interview. “And even the USDA gets it wrong.”

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