The serious weather which has affected harvest operations, has been well documented and we can only hope that eventually drier weather comes along to try and let the combines do their work.

There is still nearly all of the bean crop to cut and earlier this week we had some high winds which helped to dry things up, but at night more rain fell and again everything ground to a halt.

Potato lifting is also having problems and there are some teams who are going to go onto nightshift to try and catch up with such a large acreage still to lift.

Next year’s harvest is also being compromised by lack of opportunity to get the winter crop in and this could see an increase in the UK spring barley area next year. 

This year’s total barley crop has been estimated as coming from 1,175,000 ha, or the highest area since 2013 when spring barley plantings soared on the back of bad weather the previous autumn. If the five-year average yield is applied, this would produce 7.1m tonnes of total barley in 2017 and that would be up 7% on last year. 

Going forward, the spring area could be up by 10% at 750,000 ha and the winter area down by 3% at 426,000 ha, which would reflect the move to more spring cropping across the UK.

According to met office data, rainfall during the months of June-August averaged as much as 170% of the average between 1981 and 2010 in parts of the UK and most key growing areas received between 10% and 50% more rainfall than usual during the summer. 

This has been compounded by continued unsettled weather over the past few weeks, slowing harvest progress, especially in Scotland, during this harvest. With harvest in the north estimated at only 80% complete, this will be the latest finish to the spring barley crop in recent years and brings back memories of the horror stories of 1985. 

As a result, Hagberg falling numbers are lower than in recent years, moisture levels for both wheat and barley are much higher and there are also reports of pre-germination in some barley crops.

The implications of the loss of glyphosate to farmers does not bear thinking about, as this would delay harvest even further in a difficult year such as this and incur much higher drying charges.

One bit of good news is that UK exports of barley in July totalled 113,000 tonnes – the second highest total for the month in the past 14 years, behind 2015-16 when 119,000 tonnes were exported. Spain was the main destination, with 60,000 tonnes sent there in July. 

This follows a poor domestic barley harvest in Spain, with production down around 2m tonnes to 58m tonnes.

For wheat, the UK started the year as a nett importer, with 156,000 tonnes of wheat imported from the EU and non-EU origins including 49,000 tonnes from France and 43,000 tonnes from Canada, while we exported just 16,000 tonnes of wheat in July, with 82% going to Ireland.

Following the recent German election, the euro lost 2% in one week against the dollar, dropping to its lowest level in nearly six weeks. The news is supportive for commodities traded in euros as it should make EU origin more competitive on the export market. However, as of last week, EU wheat exports were down 40%, at 3.7m tonnes, from a year ago while maize imports rose by more than 60% from a year ago to 3.2m tonnes.

Russia, whose wheat production this year looks like setting a record, could be on for another bumper harvest in 2018 due to the strong pace of early autumn sowing. According to official data 11.2m ha has been sow, with winter crop to date, up from 10.8m ha last year at this time and looks likely to exceed the official target of 17.5m ha and could even reach 18.1m ha’s. 

So, Russia’s wheat crop is expected to account for 85-87% of winter crop sowings, or more than 60% of overall Russian wheat output. This year’s harvest production estimated at 81.1m tonnes will drive Russia to be the top exporter among world wheat traders for the first time, with exports forecast well in excess of 30m tonnes for 2017-18.

The Liffee feed wheat futures for November, 2017, were up £1.05 last week to £142.15 and for May, 2018, stood at £147.55. Nearby UK feed wheat futures have remained close to £140 per tonne for nearly two months now and over the past 30 days have closed in a range of just £4.75 per tonne. 

Such low levels of movement in grain prices do not last indefinitely and at some stage volatility will return to the market place. This could happen, for example, if the US harvest is better than expected, also if the next global supply and demand figure estimates and the latest US grain stocks vary from that previously forecast.

A piece of better news to finish with is that Scotland’s farmers will get a 5% rise in basic and other payments because the exchange rate used to calculate subsidy in 2017 is based value of the pound. 

The 2017 rate is based on the average exchange rate across the month of September and the 5% figure represents a further increase on top of the 17% increase in the value of the euro seen in 2016. 

This is good news for farmer’s incomes and strengthens the competitiveness of UK exports, but will see higher priced imported goods such as feedstuffs and machinery, as €1 now equals £0.89470 which is slightly up from £0.85228 in 2016.