Just two months ago we were concerned that the price of soya bean meal to Irish users had jumped to €430/t. What has happened since?
The cost of soya bean meal has risen to €565/t.
During the late spring and early summer, Irish grain growers forward sold their green grain at prices averaging about €170/t. What has happened since? Today, 20pc moisture wheat off the combine is freely worth €205/t.
This latest price surge is ostensibly attributed to a drought in North America but another, more sinister, factor is also at work.
Many believe that financial speculators are exacerbating this volatility and instability in the price of farm commodities.
Sharks, who wouldn't know a grain from grommet, are cashing on every latest crop scare and are causing mayhem in the markets.
In the environment we now inhabit, prices could collapse even faster than they have climbed.
Ten years ago, about 20pc of commodity trading was carried out by financial speculators.
Today it is reckoned that non-trading speculators outnumber those actually trading in a commodity by four to one.
These speculators have an interest in instability. They will fan the flames of volatility.
Traders in commodity derivatives and contracts for differences (the instruments that brought down Sean Quinn in Anglo Irish) can make money when prices are rising.
They can make money when prices are falling. Stable price is their enemy.
Farmers and consumers get hurt from commodity price volatility.
The 2007/2008 spike in the prices of grain and soya led to food riots in many of the world's poorest countries and to the toppling of governments in countries such as Libya, Egypt and Tunisia.
Not only has this latest spike in Irish grain and protein prices devastated the prospects for our pig and poultry farmers, it has also jeopardised the growing interest in forward selling.
Indeed the combination of the late season price spike, coupled with a yield collapse, has put some growers and merchants in trouble.
The IFA reckon that 40-45pc of the anticipated 2012 harvest has been forward sold at prices significantly below current levels.
This estimate is based on normal yields. If we factor in the weather effect, it suggests that more than half the 2012 harvest will not benefit from the recent price surge.
The forward contracts were taken out for wheat, barley, oats, oilseed rape, beans and peas. Tying down the price for part of your crop was recommended as prudent business.
The advice was to forward contract a price for a maximum of two thirds on the expected yield. Based on a 4t/ac crop, winter wheat growers generally contracted forward for about 2.5t/ac but some gambled on supplying the full four tonnes.
The contracts also included quality factors such as purity and bushel weight.
Growers who are unable to supply their contracts are in a bad place. Not alone are they losing out on the extra €30-50/t tonne available from the current market, but they will also have to buy grain at today's inflated price to fill their forward contract.
Some growers are speaking with merchants and co-ops pleading for force majeure-type concessions on their contracts.
There are hints that Dairygold and Glanbia are taking a lenient view on enforcing the forward contracts with growers worst-hit with the weather, provided the grower delivers all of his or her crop and is not sneaking some of the crop to another merchant.
If more than 50pc of the 2012 grain harvest is leaving the growers at about €40 per tonne below current market price, it begs the question, who is benefiting from this?
The signs are that the animal feed price is already set to reflect the highest grain prices.
It is galling to think that financial speculators are pocketing the spin-offs from the grain price volatility and this at the expense of growers and consumers.
It is suggested that about five global banks such as Goldman Sachs now account for about $9 trillion of trading in commodity derivatives and that 80-90pc of this is over-the-counter stuff not available to public scrutiny.
The concept of storing from years of plenty to tide the population over the scarce years goes back almost to pre-history.
Here we are in 2012, with world food supply on a knife edge, with unprecedented seven billion human mouths to feed, yet governments and regulators leave this crucial issue to the mercy of the free market and the sharks that inhabit that space.
On top of this, the panic triggered by the increasing frequency of weather-related crop failures is manna to the speculators.
It is a recipe for volatility as the global herd reacts instantly to the latest rumour.
In the interest of food security, it is crucial that governments again establish strategic reserves of vital feed grains.
Maybe this latest price spike will act as a stimulus to set this in motion.
At a recent Rabobank seminar, food supply chains were mentioned as a mechanism for reducing price volatility.
Even if the US diverted half of the 100m tonnes of maize corn earmarked for ethanol back into the feed market, this could help quell the panic-buying.
Then again, this might affect the price of motor fuel in an election year.
We await for some grouping such as the G20 to give the lead on establishing food stockpiles. However one shouldn't hold their breath until this happens.
In the absence of such a development, the volatility can only become more acute.
Finally, if ever an argument were needed that the Single Farm Payment should be based on production, we are seeing it now.
It is the active growers and active herd and flockowners who are taking the brunt of the 2012 weather fiasco.
Surely an obvious and logical use of the Single Farm Payment is to cushion these blows.
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