Winter-sown crops are beginning to grow and looking a lot healthier, even though air temperatures are struggling to get above 10°C for any length of time.

That said, with the rain keeping away from most of the eastern Borders, this has allowed field operations to progress and potato planting is now well underway as well.

Globally, the weather could yet have an impact on commodities and prices this coming year as many countries are having all sorts of issues that could affect prices.

In Australia, winter crop planting is just getting underway and the prediction is for lower rainfall levels over the next few months which might impact on yield.

Western Australia and Victoria produce 47% of the country’s wheat, plus 55% of its barley and 61% of its oilseed rape. That also helps make the country the world’s second largest exporter of barley and rapeseed, and fifth largest exporter of wheat – if the crop performs well. So, if production there is affected, it could support global prices.

Also, Ukrainian barley output could decline to 7.75m tonnes in 2018-19 as a late spring has delayed planting. This might result in a 6% drop in planted area, which would then be planted with either maize or sunflowers.

Outwith that, EU total grain production is forecast to rise by 1m tonnes this coming season to 306m tonnes, which is neither here nor there. However, delays to spring planting due to wet weather means there is uncertainty about yield forecasts.

Any blip could see EU soft wheat tonnage down by 100,000 tonnes and barley down by 200,000 tonnes, due to lower expected planted areas.

Continued wintry conditions across much of the US also appear to have stalled US spring crop planting and spring wheat planting remained unchanged from the previous week, with only 3% of the intended area currently planted. On average over the past five years, it's usually 25% complete at this time.

There is still potential for planting to catch up, but if present conditions continue then there is the risk that the total area of spring barley will be reduced.

Planting US maize is also falling behind, with only 5% of the crop in the ground – 9% behind the five-year average.

Looking ahead to 2018-19 for the UK, with the wheat planted area anticipated to decline again, it is difficult to make an argument against a tight supply and demand balance. This could well support prices above the world level for another season, unless we see strong yields, more imports or lower demand.

We have seen the balance of global grain supply and demand change for the first time since 2012-13. Despite this reversal which sees demand overtaking supply, global grain stocks are still forecast to end the year at the third highest level on record, reflecting four years of surplus.

Even with these higher stocks, we have begun to see an increase in grain prices. US wheat futures recently rallied, giving support to their domestic market and in the UK the Liffee old crop May, 2018, futures were up £1.10 to £147.85 and November new crop futures were up 55p to £147.50.

UK old crop prices have remained steady too, reflecting the tight balance sheet, with milling premiums extending further as millers take cover for the last quarter of the season.

Feed wheat-ex farm was up £1.10 to £148.90, feed barley was up £1.60 to £142.90 and oilseed rape delivered Erith was unchanged at £288.50.

Last autumn an early bird survey indicated that UK farmers intended to expand their spring barley area for a fourth year running, however the wet spring points to the final UK spring barley area being lower than forecast.

Canadian farmers intend to plant 13% more wheat in 2018 than last year, which will take its wheat area up to 10.2m ha – an increase of 15%. Canadian spring wheat is an important crop for the UK due to its milling capabilities and on average over the last five seasons Canadian wheat has accounted for 16% of UK wheat imports. It also accounts for 68% of the UK’s non-EU origin imports.

World soyabean production is likely to decrease by 10m tonnes to 338m tonnes, which is due in part to a reduction in Argentinean production which has fallen to a nine-year low of 37m tonnes. As at April 18 almost 40% of Argentinean soya had been harvested compared to last year at this time when only 16.3% had been done.

Also, 84% of the crop there has been rated as in 'poor' or 'very poor' condition and yield is forecast at 2.5 tonnes/ha, compared to 3.2 tonnes/ha the previous year.

This decline is likely to result in Argentina importing soya to maintain supply for its crushing operations and last week it bought 120,000 tonnes of US soya.

US soya exports to China declined by 21% in the first three months of 2018 as Chinese imports fell from 15.4m tonnes in 2017 to 12.2m tonnes in that period. Fears over a Chinese tax on US soya imports has contributed to escalating trade tensions between the US and China.

In contrast, imports of barley by China increased sharply in February and March, 2018, importing 620,000 tonnes in February and 860,000 tonnes in March. This takes the season to date total to 3.82m tonnes – 15% more than during the same period in 2016-17.