Grain Marketing Lingo: Trading Codes

Grain Marketing Lingo: Trading Codes
Extension Educator and Agricultural Systems Economist
Grain bins in field.

Commodity marketing has its own lingo designed efficiently and effectively convey information. One of the first skills that you will need to pick up is how to read trading codes. Let’s walk through an example. 

The following trading code describes the December 2021 corn contract:

Commodity CodeZCContract MonthHContract Year21

In this simple 5-character code, one can determine the commodity being traded, the platform, the month and the year the contract expires. Let’s walk through an example.

Commodity Code

The first 1 or 2 letters, shown in orange, are the commodity code.

The “Z” at the beginning of the code in the example indicates that the contract is being traded electronically on the CME Globex platform. Four prices are reported each day for trading codes on the Globex platform, the opening price, the highest price, the lowest price and the last price.

Commodity CodeCContract MonthHContract Year21

If you see a corn or soybean code that omits the first “Z” as show above, that means the code is only reporting the last price of the day.

The “C” in “ZCH21” or “CH21” represents the commodity that is being traded, which in this example is corn. The letter “S” would indicate a soybean contract, as shown below.

Commodity CodeSContract MonthFContract Year21

Hard Red Winter Wheat is slightly different than corn or soybeans. The product code is still the first two letters.  However, “KE” indicates the prices from the CME Globex platform. Whereas “KW” only reports the last price of the day.  

Commodity CodeKEContract MonthHContract Year21 or Commodity CodeKWContract MonthHContract Year21

Contract Month

The letters closet to the numbers, shown in blue, indicate the expiration month of the contract. Below are the codes for each month.

January – F April -J July - N October - V
February - G May - K August - Q November -X
March -H June - M September -U December -Z


Soybeans have 7 contracts per year, F, H, K, N, Q, U, and X. Corn and Hard Red Winter Wheat trade 5 contracts per year H, K, N, U, and Z.

Contract year

The numbers at the end indicate the year of contract expiration. In this example the contract ends in 2021.

While the above rules work in almost all situations, please be aware that code information can vary across trading platforms.  For more information please review the links under the resources below.