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(Adds quotes from executives, details on prices and forecasts, background)
By P.J. Huffstutter
ST. LOUIS, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Monsanto Co expects corn prices to rise in the year ahead, which will help the seeds and agrochemical company reach its earnings forecast, executives said on Wednesday.
But they added that the majority of its growth will come from new products and expanding its reach to new markets.
Monsanto made its forecasts for corn amid a steep downturn in commodities markets that have dragged crop prices to multi-year lows, triggered belt-tightening among farmers and unleashed a flurry of talk about consolidation in the agricultural sector.
Monsanto expects corn prices will recover to $4.50 a bushel in the next 8 to 12 months from less than $4 currently, sticking to its forecast just a week after the U.S. Department of Agriculture cut its price outlook for the marketing year to Aug. 31 by 15 cents a bushel to a range of $3.35 to $3.95 a bushel.
The company said if corn prices instead fall or fail to show "modest improvement" from current levels, it would find "another path" to hit its earnings per share (EPS) target, said Mike Frank, vice president of Global Commercial.
He declined to disclose how the company would offset the decline.
The company is maintaining its forecast for EPS of $5.10 to $5.60 by fiscal year 2019.
Eighty percent of Monsanto's earnings over the next three to four years are expected to be from innovation such as newly developed products, according to presentations made on Wednesday. The remaining 20 percent is tied to the price of commodities like corn and soybeans.
"If the 20 percent doesn't happen, then we can grow about $4," Frank said in an interview with Reuters. He later confirmed that Monsanto was not changing its EPS guidance and was not forecasting company performance based on specific commodity prices. (Reporting by P.J. Huffstutter in St. Louis and Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)