We have started the year off with some good hard frost that can only do some good following some wet weather over the festive period that saw fields waterlogged once again.

None of these weather patterns has affected wheat futures, though. The Liffe May, 2018, price was up only 40p to £141.50 and for November, 2018, up 75p to £143 per tonne.

This has been the same for quite some time and the trading range in annual UK feed wheat futures hit a 12-year low in 2017, with the gap between the minimum and maximum values varying by just £17.75 per tonne. This variation is down from £41.60 in 2016 and the lowest since 2005 when the range was just £8.00 per tonne.

On the first trading day in 2017, the May, 2018, wheat futures contract closed at £140.10 per tonne and last Wednesday it closed at £141 per tonne. The traded range may have been even smaller were it not for a spike in June, when fears of drought in the US and the impact it might have had on spring wheat supplies pushed up global markets.

Large global stocks of maize and soyabeans and bigger than anticipated world wheat crops kept the market subdued throughout the year.

Although volatility was low, the actual level of wheat prices in the UK has been more comfortable for producers than elsewhere in the world. US farmers have seen a 40% drop in income since 2014 and there is a general feeling that it will be two more harvests before a recovery can be expected.

UK wheat farmers have done better than other countries, as UK wheat producers are benefitting from Brexit-induced sterling weakness and the pound has dropped 18% against the euro over the past 18 months. That has been worth £20-£25 per tonne extra on wheat prices.

Another factor is the relative tightness in the UK market at present, driven by significantly lower carry-in stocks and strong demand.

Bread milling wheat ex farm was down £5.20 to £149.80 and feed wheat was down £2 to £137.50, compared to feed barley that was up £3.70 to £126.30.

There are weather issues out there that could yet impact on wheat prices for this coming year,such as in the US where temperatures in the key wheat state of Kansas fell to -23.9°C recently and with much of Kansas lacking protective snow cover, the threat of freeze damage is increased and led to concerns of winterkill in the current winter wheat crop.

This has seen the USDA lower its latest crop condition score by 15 points as at the end of November down to 36% 'good or excellent'. Combined with the expectation that the US planted wheat area may decline again this year, this could cause issues for available supplies at harvest.

Temperatures in Russia have been 10°C above normal recently and again a lack of snow cover could see risk damage to crops and recent record yields have been helped by plants being covered in snow, protecting them from the low temperatures.

With an increased global importance being placed on the Russian crop due to its recent high production – it is currently the highest global exporter of wheat – any changes due to weather could influence wheat availability in 2018-19.

The weather in the Ukraine is also abnormally warm for the time of year, with temperatures between 5-9°C above average and again like Russia there is a lack of plant snow cover leaving the crop at risk when the cold weather returns.

Feed barley in the northern regions of the UK and especially in the west is in demand both on farm and from animal feed mills compared to further south who appear more relaxed about sourcing supplies. The export market has seen a slow start and unless it picks up feed barley supplies will outweigh demand which cannot be good for price support.

Prices, however, remain firm within the UK for malting barley as maltsters still require quality barley from now until harvest to cover new malt sales.

Dry weather and soil conditions in Argentina continue to be a concern for soya production, but any potential drop in production there looks to be offset by production in Brazil where there has been more rain.

Paris rapeseed values picked up this week with May, 2018, futures up €8.50 on the week to close at €361.25 and for November, 2018, Paris rapeseed futures were up €7.45 to €320.42 per tonne.

UK oilseed rape futures were also up – by £2 last week and again another £2 earlier this week – but oilseed delivered Erith remained unchanged at £313.50 per tonne as UK domestic prices remained flat due to a bigger crop this past year and higher than expected new crop plantings.

An uplift in crude oil prices has helped soya prices and Brent crude oil price is now at a 2½-year high at $66.87 per barrel as at the end of last year. The uplift in crude prices provides some support to the value of soya oil, which is the primary feedstock for US biodiesel.