The Highland show has been and gone, with record crowds and mainly ideal weather for livestock and for the public to enjoy a good day out seeing what Scottish farmers and agriculture has to offer.

But, as we live in both interesting and uncertain times, a few facts prove the importance of Scottish agriculture to Scotland’s economy.

The food and drink sector is worth £14.4bn annually to the Scottish economy and directly employs 119,000 people who are the driving force behind much of the country’s £5bn food and drink exports.

The salmon industry is worth £718m and raspberries alone, for example, bring in £12m annually. But it is not all good news, as this year Scotland recorded the lowest number of dairy farms since records began in 1903. The loss of 17 dairy farms since January, 2016, took the total from 974 to 957.

Also, a recent land survey showed a 3% drop in the value of Scottish farm land, since 2007. However, land values have risen by 160% and is forecast to rise by another 5.5% by 2021 – but the uncertainty of Brexit will be a telling factor in land prices, at least in the short term.

Some think that Brexit could result in around 30-40% less in direct subsidies and with this level of decrease, farmers will have to concentrate on increasing production to compensate. Diversification, which has been going on for some time now, will need to increase and historically the amount of income from agriculture alone was approximately 37% in 2016 and down from 49% in 2000.

The average age of Scottish farmers is 58 years old and just 9% of farm occupiers in Scotland are under 40. There is funding of £2.5m to help new entrants into farming and to support the next generation of farmers and increase opportunities for young people to establish a career in agriculture.

Within the next two months, winter sown crops will begin to be planted and based on the existing Brexit timeline, a proportion of the crops harvested in 2018 will be marketed in a post-Brexit world.

While high quality milling and malting products will most probably continue to be exported, the trade and feed quality grains will be dependent on exchange rates and market access. With ongoing uncertainty about the economic sustainability of UK arable production, there are several things that can be done – such as improve competitiveness, drive productivity, improve consistency of UK grain quality and look for potential grain and product niches at home and abroad.

One stand-by could be the Ensus plant bio-energy plant which has the capacity to use more than 1m tonnes of wheat per year and can also use other products such as maize. That could be a useful way to mop up ‘extras’ in the market place.

UK wheat consumption this past season was put at 15.69m tonnes, a rise of 6% year-on-year. This reflects a growth of 10% to an all-time high of 8.11m tonnes used for human and industrial use, driven by the recovery in the UK bioethanol sector. It was 12,000 tonnes above earlier forecasts made last March.

Forecasts for human and industrial use of maize were raised by 40,000 tonnes to 548,000 tonnes, which is a rise of 21% year-on-year due to demand from the biofuel industry.

As a result of this increased use of wheat in bioethanol plants, the UK is returning to being a nett wheat importer this season for only the fourth time in 25 years as the growth in output at the country’s bioethanol plants drives consumption to a record high. Imports this season have been forecast at 1.7m tonnes, 13% higher than in 2015-16, while exports have been pegged at 1.5m tonnes, 47% lower than last season.

While export demand is expected to fall, total domestic consumption of wheat in 2016-17 is forecast to rise by 6% on the year. This, combined with a smaller

domestic crop in 2016, has led to forecast commercial end of season stocks declining by 27% on the year to 2.04m.

Wheat prices are being supported by dry weather in many countries and in France, where both winter barley and wheat harvest has started, barley quality is rated as ‘good to very good’, but yields are variable even though harvest is 10 days ahead of schedule due to dry conditions.

Some 68% of its national wheat crop is rated as ‘good or excellent’, which is down from 74% the previous week. In 2015, 85% of their 2015 crop was rated at that by mid-June.

The Liffe feed wheat futures set a new contract high of £149 per tonne last week as temperatures soared in the UK. November new crop feed wheat futures closed last week at £146.10, up £3.75 on the week – which is a significant rise.

The US is also experiencing dry hot conditions and its spring wheat crop fell to the lowest ever rating of 41% ‘good to excellent’, compared to 76% at this time last year.

UK ex-farm prices for bread milling wheat were up £1.80 to £146.60, feed wheat was up 10p to £141.50 and feed barley was up £4.20 to £122.20.

Oilseed rape delivered to the crushing plant at Erith, in Kent, was down £4.50 to £315.50 due in part to the falling price of Brent crude oil.