THE US maize crop is facing regular downgrades among the key analysts to the lowest in five years even following the USDA’s dramatic cut in its monthly report. According to a poll, US maize production will be 12.077 billion bushels, 6.9% lower than the government’s already revised figure of 12.97bn bu (from June’s 14.79bn bu) based mainly on a drop in yields and partly because farmers will plough crops under to get crop insurance. The Reuters poll of 13 analysts put yields at 137.2bu per acre, down 6% from USDA’s current forecast of 146bu/acre (from 166bu/acre in June). Moreover, the worsening drought that has already slashed crop conditions (see below dashboard, which also shows the 40% price surge in Chicago futures over the past six weeks) is only going to continue. Only 31% of the crop is now considered ‘good or excellent’, after this week’s nine point cut. Conditions do still remain above the worst ratings in 1988 though. Crop meteorologists have forecast a hot, dry fortnight, with the drought spreading to western and northwestern parts.