WITH very little winter weather here in the Borders so far as December approaches, we are now seeing the threat of cold and wet weather arriving.
For the first time this back end there is some surface water lying in the fields, but that’s nothing compared to weather concerns around the globe, where drought has delayed planting and establishment of winter sown crops. Soil moisture reserves remain below average across significant areas of Europe and particularly in France, where conditions for their soft wheat crop are at their worst in six years. 
Ukraine’s winter crops are looking better than last season but soils across the country remain dry with parts of the country receiving no significant rainfall for almost a month and crop growth is being affected as cold conditions lead to the start of winter dormancy.
Both Ukraine and France are major global exporters of wheat and production in both countries will have significant impact on the quantity of wheat available for export in the 2018-19 season.
Over the past two weeks, November, 2019, feed wheat prices were gradually falling back but it is interesting to note that November, 2019, wheat prices are still around £12/tonne above where November, 2018, prices were a year ago and at similar levels to November, 2014. 
The 2019 crop will be the first to be fully marketed in a post-Brexit era, but what that environment looks like remains to be seen.
At the end of last week, May, 2019, feed wheat futures closed at £174.75 which is the highest level since the end of October following three consecutive days of gains which was helped by weaker sterling and higher continental futures prices. UK markets have been tracking Paris milling wheat futures where over three days last week Paris futures increased by €3.75. 
This increase is due in part to recent wheat purchases by Egypt, some of which is from the US rather than Russia. It may be that the pace of Russian wheat exports is slowing and would signal an opportunity for an increased volume of European wheat exports which may, in turn, lend support to UK markets.
UK maize imports reached 544,000 tonnes from last July until October and this is the fastest import pace in recent years and significantly above the five-year average of 370,000 tonnes for this period, but this import rate may not continue with a weaker sterling and lower wheat prices.
The US is one exporter keen to see Russian exports slow down as its wheat exports are 20% behind last year’ pace and keen to do more business just as they did last week when Egypt bought 240,000 tonnes of wheat for January and 50% was bought from the US, with Russia and Romania supplying the balance, even though US wheat is around $12/tonne cheaper but shipping is double that of Russia.
China is the world’s largest wheat producing country and also carries significant stocks and USDA is forecasting China’s wheat output reaching 132.5m tonnes, which is more than enough to meet its consumption needs of 123m tonnes. Currently, China’s wheat stocks stand at 143m tonnes but they are still importing a further 4m tonnes. 
Despite the increase in European wheat futures, the pace of European wheat exports has been disappointing this season and is the reason why European wheat prices slipped for much of October. 
By the week ending November 18, cumulative 2018-19 European wheat exports were at just over 6m tonnes and if EU soft wheat exports are to reach the 20m tonne forecast by the EU Commission, then the weekly export pace will have to increase to 437,000 tonnes per week for the remainder of the season. 
This figure would not be breaking any records, as from 2014-15 to 2016-17 the average export pace from this point in the season exceeded that.
Feed barley prices have been under pressure as barley struggles to keep its place in domestic feed rations due to feed wheat being a competitive substitute, however feed barley prices remain strong as export opportunities for UK barley still exist into Europe for coasters rather than the bigger ships to North Africa.
Malting barley prices remain firm, with some trading being done and domestic prices are currently better than those for export.
UK ex-farm milling wheat was up £1.80 to £174.20, feed wheat was up 60p to £164 and compares to feed barley which was up 5p to £163.10 which is a difference per tonne of less than £1 and could see more wheat being used in feed rations.
Oilseed rape delivered Erith was down £4 per tonne last week to £333.50 as the European rapeseed market continues to come under pressure. For instance, Paris’ future markets lost 3.5% of their value over the last two weeks. 
Imports will be arriving in late December and early January into Northern Europe from Canada and also from the recently harvested Australian canola crop. This all points to a large stock carry-over at the end of this season and little sign of a stronger market in the short term – unless Brexit issues affect the value of sterling.
Soyabeans are seeing some support on the back of optimism around a US-China trade agreement as the US president indicated that further proposed tariffs on China may not be required.