This morning bean prices are ticking slightly upward on news inventories are depleting. How low are bean inventories? From Bloomberg.com:
U.S. soybean reserves on June 1 were probably 382 million bushels, the smallest for that date since 1977, according to a survey of 26 analysts by Bloomberg News. Area losses for corn and soybeans may reach 2 million acres due to damage from ponding, flooding and hail, Michael Cordonnier, the president of Soybean & Corn Advisor Inc., wrote in a report today.
So bean inventories are at their lowest level in 37 years in absolute terms but the pictures is even more bullish when you consider per capita estimates of bean inventories. Since 1977, the US population has grown by nearly a one-third (220M to 318M source: US census bureau). Assuming 1977 inventories were in the neighborhood of current figures, the number of bushels per person has dropped from 1.74 to 1.20. So the amount of per capita consumption that could be supported by current inventories is far lower today than in 1977 - or anytime since.
Throw in the fact that 1B people in China were in throws of a multi-decade depression back in the 70's where as today their economy is thriving thus increasing their demand for calories exponentially (1 calorie of meat requires 10 calories of grain). Then add the fact the western diet is far more bean intensive today than in the 70's. When I sum it all up, the bullish case for beans appears very strong.