DRYING winds have been compounding the problem of lack of rain for spring sown crops that have not germinated.

Some fields are looking very patchy and it is not only my part of the Borders that has had little rain in April.

The UK has had its lowest level in 10 years and 34.7 mm rainfall in April was just 48% of the average rainfall in the UK between 1981 and 2010. Cumulative rainfall, from October to April, was 542.4 mm, the lowest level since 1975-76, when just 494.4mm fell over the same period. How the weather develops over the next two months will be crucial to the outlook for harvest 2017.

For the week ending May 1, 75% of the French soft wheat crop was in good condition, compared with 78% a week earlier and the current condition score is lower than equivalent ratings in 2016 and 2017.

This is a contrasting situation to 2015 when excessive rainfall caused a rapid deterioration of their soft wheat crop. The current estimate for soft wheat output in France in 2017-18 is 37.4m tonnes, up 9.5m tonnes from the 23-year low in 2016-17.

Some 1m acres of Canadian crops from last year remain unharvested in Saskatchewan alone due to wet conditions and this has meant that the following crop has been unable to be sown.

Following the highest level of production in 25 years, Canadian wheat stocks at March 31 were estimated to be 16% higher-year-on-year at 16.6m tonnes.

The majority of the annual increase was driven by an 18% rise in on-farm stocks at 12.2 m tonnes. With Canada being a major wheat exporter on the global market, a greater level of stocks could mean that it has a larger availability of the grain to ship.

Extreme snowy weather has hit key US wheat growing states recently, leading to concerns regarding the condition of the crops and this week, another storm is expected to develop.

It was due to hit the central US Plains over the next few days, with further rain potentially adding to disease pressure in this area.

Last week the Liffe feed wheat futures were the best performing market over the past two weeks, but this week old crop Liffe feed wheat futures had a marginal gain of 70p up to £149.30, but new crop November, 2017, futures were up £2.25 to close at £140.50 per tonne.

UK ex-farm bread milling wheat was up £1.70 to £147.50 and feed wheat up £2.80 to £146.20. The premium of spot UK average ex-farm bread wheat prices over feed wheat has deteriorated throughout the season from more than £25 per tonne in July to around only £1. The strength of feed values in the UK this year has been the driver of the squeeze.

Feed barley ex-farm was up £2.60 and this represents good value in feed rations at £122.50 per tonne, nearly £25 per tonne cheaper than wheat.

Wheat used by the GB milling industry, including starch and bioethanol, in the period from January to March was 13% up year-on-year at 1.7m tonnes. This takes the season to date usage up to 5.35m tonnes, the largest amount of wheat milled at this point on records going back to 1997.

The amount of home-grown wheat used in GB milling so far this season has also reached the highest level on record, at 4.67m tonnes. Season-to-date, the quantity of imported wheat used in milling is 4% lower on year at 707,000 tonnes. The usage of imported wheat from January to March was 4% higher than the same period in 2015/’16 at 230,000 tonnes.

February was the third month in succession where the UK was a nett importer of wheat, following 14 consecutive months of being a nett exporter.

Wheat supplies in some parts of the country have started to dry up and with this in mind, the GB milling industry may need to use a greater proportion of imported wheat during the last quarter of the season.

Oilseed rape delivered Erith was down £2.50 on the week to £338.50, compared to oilseed futures which were up £2 last week.

Wet weather in parts of the US mid-west delayed planting of soyabeans last week and some of the planted crop may have to be re-drilled in some areas.

Canadian canola stocks at the end of March, were at the lowest level at this point in four years. At 6.6m tonnes, this was 23% or 2m tonnes lower than at the same point last year – mainly due to a 28% fall in on-farm stocks to 5m tonnes. However, Canada is set to plant its biggest ever planted area of canola this year.