Colder weather and frosty nights have been a regular feature following the 50 mm or two inches of rain at the end of last month – hopefully the forecast for this weekend will warm things up.

That rain delayed work on the fields where the main activity now is potato planting, with movement again on the lighter soils. Fertiliser and spray applications are well under way when the wind has not been too strong to stop them.

Potatoes have been going into mostly good conditions and recent frost has not been enough to stop the planters. Crops planted earlier have not emerged yet, but ground temperatures are still low and this has slowed development.

Further north, it has been too cold to plant potatoes so waiting for higher temperatures and another problem has been seed availability across the country as supplies remain tight.

The Liffe feed wheat futures have remained reasonably static these past few weeks as politicians continue to wrangle over Brexit casing uncertainty. But it now looks likely that the UK will remain in the EU for quite some time yet, though traders remain nervous as we get closer to harvest.

May, 2019, old crop wheat futures have hovered around £162-£164 these past few weeks and November, 2019, new crop futures have been around £147-£145 which is around £16 down on old crop prices. At the beginning of September, 2018, November new crop futures stood at £187.77 and May old crop futures stood at £168 – which is a difference of £19 per tonne but in both cases £20 per tonne higher than at present levels.

The area planted to wheat in Russia is set to increase with dry conditions in the spring wheat area allowing for extra crop to be sown – this will be on top of the estimated 4% rise in winter wheat planting earlier. The combined area forecasts the Russian wheat area at a 10-year high and production could reach 78.6m tonnes, a rise of 9% on the year.

Russian yields have averaged 2.68 tonnes per ha over the past five years and this expansion will add further pressure to the wheat markets.

There have been little global weather concerns for new crop wheat markets, as conditions in the US, Black Sea and Europe are all largely favourable. The US does remain a bit too wet, but Europe is quite the opposite with ongoing dry weather persisting through much of Northern Europe including parts of the UK.

The negative impact on wheat is evident in France where crop conditions continue to get worse and optimal yields will be difficult to achieve this year.

The proportion of US wheat in ‘good to excellent’ condition is the highest since the record yields in 2016-17. Although it is still early in its development the condition of their winter wheat is ahead of last year, 56% of the US wheat crop was reported as good to excellent compared to just 32% at the same point last season.

While there is still a long way to go until harvest, the condition of winter wheat reported in the first US condition report can be a good indication of the final yield. Currently, the proportion of wheat in ‘good to excellent’ condition is similar to that of 2016-17 and 2017-18 where the winter wheat yields were 3.7t/ha and 3.4t/ha, respectively and should favourable conditions continue then yields this season could be similar.

US wheat end stocks were revised by the latest USDA report up to over 29.5m tonnes, the third highest level on record due to a downward revision of US wheat exports and this has helped EU exports which are up by 1m tonnes to 24m tonnes on the latest report. The increased export forecast leaves EU wheat end stocks at minimum levels and the lowest since 2013-14.

Rainfall in Spain so far in 2019 has been below average and rain deficit in Spain, Portugal, and Morocco could lead to increased demand levels this season. For the UK, problems for Spanish and Portuguese crops have historically resulted in increased exports. Dry weather in these countries in 2015-16 saw the UK export 709,000 tonnes of wheat and on average over the past 5 years UK exports to Spain and Portugal have averaged 331,000 tonnes.

World wheat production was estimated slightly lower at 732.87m tonnes by the latest USDA report but falls in consumption saw year-end stocks increase by 5m tonnes to 275.61m tonnes, which is just 6m tonnes down on the year. World supply and demand for maize has seen maize production jump by 6m tonnes with increased production for most of the major producers such as Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. Brazil’s maize production is forecast to reach 94m tonnes.

The EU also had good growing conditions producing 63m tonnes and global maize stocks have been increased by 5.5m tonnes but there are increasing concerns around delayed planting due to extensive flooding and significant snowfalls in parts of the US maize growing belt which may affect future production and global maize stocks now stand at 314.01m tonnes which is 26m tonnes down from last year.

Up to 30 inches of snow was forecast to arrive in key US maize growing states at the end of this week and delays will take place, which is the case in Illinois due to earlier flooding. Once planting gets under way it tends to move quickly.

Last year, a late start to planting saw end of April plantings at just 32%, but a week later, this figure reached 75% and planting was completed before the end of May.

In the UK, this season, we have seen maize displace wheat in one of the biofuel plants and cheaper maize could see this continue. Spot price feed barley is now cheaper than maize, so we could see a reduced quantity of maize in future animal feed rations.

In the US maize usage is down by over 3m tonnes due to reduced feed and ethanol demand and with exports down by 2m tonnes the combination of these two factors have pushed US ending stocks up over 5m tonnes to 51.7m tonnes which is the third highest on record.

Brexit continues to cause uncertainty in the oilseed rape markets, partly due to sterling fluctuations and a new worry arises as UK oilseed crushers export rapeseed oil to mainland Europe and without a trade deal we could well see UK rapeseed oil exports encountering a €50 per tonne import levy and given the uncertain outlook new oil business from the UK is unlikely.

The area planted to rapeseed for 2019-20 across the EU is down nearly 18% compared with 2018-19. At 5.8m ha this is some 435,000 ha lower and the lowest area since 2006-07.

With drought conditions last summer and a dry autumn, this meant planting conditions were far from ideal but the majority of the EU crops have made a recovery, however Romania has planted almost 50% of their original OSR area with another crop.

In the Ukraine, its crop is set to grow by 29% in 2019-20 and to date their crop has 59.6% said to be in ‘good’ condition but in the UK 5%-8% of the OSR crop is estimated to have been lost over winter as a milder winter has increased pest pressure across the country.

Following a breakdown in relationship between China and Canada, Canadian exports have been revised down by 1m tonnes and the knock-on effect has been a raising of Canadian end stocks of canola (OSR) to 3.4m tonnes, the highest on record.

Global end stocks are forecast to be the highest for five years but the reduced EU rapeseed area for 2019-20 could reduce this total stock. There appears to be more optimism about a US/China trade agreement and it seems likely that this could take place soon.

US soyabean stocks are 29% up on last year’s level and the US will have to work hard to export the volume of soya required to reach the USDA export forecast. Brazil has reduced its forecast for 2019 soya exports by 6m tonnes to 67m tonnes which is a year-on-year drop of 17m tonnes and this may support future rapeseed markets.