Technology at fault
Issue is that the weekly export sales report casts a light on key indicators such as the demand for crops including corn, soybeans and wheat. This is vital for traders, suppliers and farmers alike, especially since global supplies are limited. Normally, the data for the week ending on 18 Aug would have been released on Thursday morning by the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), but the website instead displays a message about an “Export Sales Reporting Maintenance System” along with several dysfunctional web links. The government issued a statement illustrating that a new publication system for the weekly export sales report had shown “challenges that affected the physical dissemination of the export sales data as well as data quality”.
Although traders immediately questioned the data after it was issued, the report was only retracted hours later, after the commodities market closed for the day. The report, for instance, claimed that soybean sales for the new crop were almost four times higher than the most optimistic previous estimate and that net cotton sales had jumped from 49,800 bales to 1.9 million bales within only one week. While Craig Turner, a grain broker at StoneX questions in how far “we can trust it with the issues we had” and immediately discounted the data, other analysts were less fortunate. They had to apologise to their clients for sending the wrong data.