WHILE better weather has tempted out some on to the land, working has mainly been taking place on lighter soils with machines not yet able to get onto the heavier land.

This applies to potato planting as well which, if the weather holds, some potatoes should be planted by this weekend in the Borders.

With April just around the corner and spring work now getting late it is a good job that more winter crop was planted in Scotland last autumn. According to the 2016 December Agricultural survey, the total winter crop in Scotland was up by 3.1%, or 5800ha to 196,900 ha.

Winter wheat was up 2.3% (2300 ha) to 103,900 ha and winter barley was up by 0.8% to 51,800 ha. Oilseed rape was up by 8%, or 2400ha to 31,600ha while oats were up by 8.1%, or 700ha to 9,400ha.

In comparison, cattle livestock numbers in Scotland were down by 1.4%, or 23,900 head and sheep numbers were up by 83,900. Pig numbers were also up, this time by 36,800.

The total UK data shows – in comparison to Scotland – a 3% reduction for winter wheat, slightly lower winter barley area and oilseed rape down by 1%.

This could be as much to do with the increasing worry of black-grass control and the three-crop rule as it is down to weather conditions.

There does not seem to be any worries from traders that wheat suppleis might be tighter this year. The May, 2017, Liffe old crop feed wheat futures were down £1.15 on the week to £147.65 and November, 2017, new crop was down by £2.65 to £137.55. Over the past week or so, the discount of November 2017 UK feed wheat futures to May, 2017, futures has increased to over £10.

At this time last year, November, 2016, feed wheat futures were around £14 higher than May, 2016, which incentivised carrying old crop over to the following season. This year the market is in a different situation.

US grains futures fell last week with the forecast of rains easing concerns of dryness for wheat. Recent weather forecasts suggested wetter weather across the US plains which will aid soil moisture ahead of spring wheat planting and for developing winter crops.

Currency volatility continues to be an influence on the markets and the US dollar weakened last week to its lowest level in almost a month. This is likely to continue for the rest of the season and we could have already had some of it this week with the triggering of Article 50 to mark the start of two years of Brexit negotiations.

Russia has forecast its 2017cereal crop to be 109.5m tonnes which compares to 119.5m tonnes in 2016 and is somewhat different to their 2016 forecast of 95-100m tonnes!

EU soft wheat production is forecast almost 10m tonnes up on last year at 144.8m tonnes. This is due to the expectation that France will bounce back from its disastrous 2016 wheat harvest of just 28m tonnes.

With little spring barley planted yet in Scotland, any shortfall will be taken up in England as growers there have increased need for cultural weed control, henc a move to spring crops.

Currently, maltsters have plentiful supplies and with little increase in domestic demand, a greater proportion of the growing UK barley crop has had to be balanced with a combination of exports or stocks. Around 40% of the barley crop finds itself in this situation at levels not seen since the late 1990s.

In recent years, exports have been the key function to balance the UK barley market. Unlike wheat, production and demand for barley in the UK is more evenly spread across the whole of the UK and although the growth in spring barley area has been in England, demand expansion for barley and malt has largely been in Scotland.

This suggests that the UK barley market has become increasingly reliant on trade between England and Scotland.

UK ex-farm bread milling wheat was up £3 last week to £150.20 and feed wheat was up 30p to £146.40. Feed barley was up 10p to £120.90 and oilseed rape delivered Erith was down £8.50 to £353.

The UK average ex-farm feed barley price is currently at a discount of nearly £30 to feed wheat, so inclusions of barley in certain diets are expected to be at relatively high levels.

The weight of global soya supply prospects has applied further pressure to the oilseed complex this week. Anticipation of high US soya stocks, up by around 9.9% year-on-year and plantings with reported increase of up 5.8% from last year, is adding more price pressure and Argentina is also forecasting higher soya production as well.

US soya exports remained strong and in mid-March were the highest since the beginning of February and total export commitments for this marketing year stand at a record 54.2m tonnes compared to 43.7m tonnes at the same point last year.

China’s soya imports will be at a record high for a 14th consecutive season at 89m tonnes, which is 3m tonnes up on last year. Some 30m tonnes will has come from the US.

UK rapeseed imports from last July to January are the highest since 2013-14 and in January the UK imported just over 18,000 tonnes of rapeseed, mainly from France, bringing the total for the season to 61,500 tonnes. This is 27% more than over the same period last season and difficult to believe that up until January this year, the UK was a nett exporter of rapeseed.