SINGAPORE, April 17 (Reuters) – Chicago soybean futures climbed to their highest in more than two weeks on Monday, rising for a third consecutive session as forecasts of heavy rains in parts of the U.S. Midwest are expected to delay fieldwork.

Corn edged lower after rising for the last two sessions although losses were limited by delays in planting in the United States, wheat was little changed after closing 0.8 percent lower on Friday.

 Rain showers forecast across the western half of the U.S. grain belt this week are likely to stall farmers as they try to plant corn and soybeans, agricultural meteorologists said on Thursday.

“We are expecting some planting delays in the U.S., as over the next 15 days, there are forecast of excessive rains in some areas,” said Rajesh Singla, head of agriculture research at Societe Generale.

“The demand side looks good, Chinese economy is doing well and imports are rising.”

The Chicago Board of Trade most-active soybean contract climbed as high as $9.62 a bushel, the highest since March 31. It was trading up 0.2 percent at $9.57 a bushel by 0330 GMT. Corn eased 0.1 percent to $3.70-1/2 a bushel and wheat was unchanged at $4.29-3/4 a bushel.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said the U.S. corn crop was 3 percent seeded by April 9, matching the five-year average. But progress lagged in Illinois, the No. 2 U.S. corn producer, where the crop was only 1 percent seeded, compared with the state’s average of 5 percent. Planting had not begun by April 9 in Iowa, the top corn state.

Typically corn is planted before soybeans. Analysts said that the delay is likely to impact corn as well as soybeans.

Large speculators increased their net-short position in CBOT corn futures in the week to April. 11, regulatory data released on Friday showed.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s weekly commitment of traders report also showed that non-commercial traders, a category that includes hedge funds, increased their net-short position in CBOT wheat and increased their net-short position in soybeans.

On Thursday, funds were net-buyers of CBOT corn and soybean futures contracts and net-sellers in wheat, traders said.

Chinese demand remains strong support soybean prices. China, the world’s largest soybean buyer, imported 6.33 million tonnes of the beans in March, a record for the month.

The soybean market dropped to a one-year low last week with record South American supplies anchoring the market. The USDA in a monthly report raised its projections of the Brazilian and Argentine soy harvests. Those figures followed a March 31 USDA report projecting a jump in U.S. soybean plantings to record levels this year.

(Reporting by Naveen Thukral; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Christian Schmollinger)

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