April saw the predominantly dry weather continue ­– especially boosted by hot weather over Easter – and we're getting to the stage where some areas could now do with some rain.

While in Spain over Easter, it experienced the wettest spell at this time of for more than 73 years with nine days of constant rain and lots of flooding. It also happened to be the first rain there for eight months, so they welcomed it for their crops

That said, their large vegetable fields which are mostly irrigated from huge reservoirs and under plastic, were doing fine. However, this rain will have the effect of reducing Spain's requirement to buy as much UK imported barley, as their cereal crops were suffering from drought.

Before the heavy rain, soft wheat yields in Spain were forecast to be 20% behind last year but the rain in Spain may have saved the day for this crop. Could this put pressure on UK new crop export prices?

There are still concerns regarding dry weather in Denmark, though, which could affect its spring barley crop. This can compete with our home-grown malting barley and is one to watch over the coming weeks.

Recent rain showers will have done some good in parts of the UK, especially in the southern regions for their spring barley but more rain would be welcome. Following the Easter break there has been some on farm barley sales in the south, mainly for export. The animal feed market remains quiet as there's a bit of grass about, though pig producers have increased barley in rations to take advantage of the lower price of barley compared to wheat.

China needs to import 7.5m tonnes of barley to meet its needs and sources most of its barley from Australia, but UK cereals export teams have been out there to make contact with buyers to try and win some export orders. Chinese barley production stands at 1.85m tonnes and consumption is put at 9.3m tonnes, so there's a requirement of around 7.5m tonnes to imports. Chinese wheat production is about 131m tonnes with a total domestic consumption of 125m tonnes, imports for 2018-19 were 3.5m tonnes, most of which came from the USA and no doubt the UK delegation would be trying to sell some wheat as well on a quality ticket.

Global grain prices have continued to fall over the past few weeks for both old and new crop price futures as expectations for larger supplies in 2019-20 have been increasing.

In the last four weeks, old crop maize lost 7% of its value and new crop maize lost 5%. Over the same period, US wheat old crop wheat fell $11/tonne and new crop is down $10 per tonne. Paris new crop wheat is down €4/tonne and old crop down €6/tonne.

In the UK, November, 2019, new crop wheat futures were down £2.50 to £146.10, but UK old crop May, 2019, bucked the trend with a spike unseen in any other global markets. Over a three-day period last week prices rose by £6.70 and last week rose by £6 up to £166 per tonne. This was partly as a result of UK futures trade recording its third lowest volume of trade on one day this year – earlier this week fell back to £162.25.

A large volume of contracts sit on the London exchange untraded, so we may see a significant quantity of physical wheat hitting the UK market in the short-term and that will put downward pressure on prices.

There is still an £18 per tonne discount from old crop to new season crop ahead of a large forecast potential yield for European crops, but it feels as though the window for an old crop rally is becoming smaller.

Prospects for global crops are still good in the absence of any real weather events and widespread rain across the US plains and Mid-west gave cause for little concern and did not affect the crop ratings, which currently sit at 60% good/excellent compared to 30% a year ago.

UK ex-farm bread milling wheat last week was down £9.90 to £172.60, feed wheat was down £3.20 to £160 and feed barley was up £2.60 to £134.10 – that's a £26.10 discount to feed wheat which should see more barley included in feed rations.

Global wheat prices are falling as forecasts of larger wheat crops come in, Canada is expecting an 8% increase to 28m tonnes which represents 25.7m acres and has seen their canola crop area reduce by 6.6% and this has resulted in US maize and wheat futures trade down to contract lows.

This increase in production is driven by spring wheat, which is forecast to be up 10% year-on-year.

Favourable autumn conditions, coupled by a mild winter allowing continued spring wheat drilling, has seen Russia’s wheat area increase by about 2% on the year. Forecasts of an increase in wheat production as high as 83m tonnes are being mentioned, up from around 72m tonnes last year – most pundits think this new figure to be on the high side, but as Russia is the world’s largest wheat exporter, any increase in production is a concern for the global market.

Germany is forecasting a wheat rise of 21% on the year to 24.4m tonnes. If this is realised, it would be the highest since 2015/16 and again this adds pressure to the markets, though dry weather in France has given some cause for concern and is now 81% 'good to excellent', some two points down on last week but still three points up on this time last year.

EU wheat export pace continues to improve and hit 16.5m tonnes for the season at the end of last week, compared to 16.8m tonnes last year. It is now highly likely that export targets, which are 1m tonnes less than last year, will be met and that the EU as a whole will end the season with strategic stocks some 4m tonnes lower than it started with.

Imports to the EU of Canadian canola (OSR) in 2016-17 amounted to 18% of all EU oilseed imports, so this means it is now a big player in the oilseed world. That total was double that came in during the 2017-18 season.

A combination of rising futures markets and weaker sterling helped to boost farm gate values and oilseed rape markets have held strong in the face of falling US soyabean prices. Oilseed rape delivered to Erith for May was up £2 last week to £320 per tonne. Current oilseed rape prices are around £30 per tonne lower than at harvest and £10 of this fall is due to changes to sterling exchange over the same period.

Soya prices have been driven lower by ample supplies in the US and South America. Furthermore, growing challenges from African swine fever in China, have led the government to propose a cull of a large proportion of the pig herd, which has already been reduced by 10% and Chinese pork production could fall by 30% in 2019 which would see reduced demand for US soya.

The forecast is that China could lose 200m pigs and their March figures show a drop in numbers of 18.8% against the same month last year. Currently, Chinese soya imports sit 14% down on an annual basis mainly as a result of the drop in the pig herd.

On the plus side, there seems to be a new willingness from both sides to sort out the US/China dispute which remains ongoing. Chinese farmers expect to plant 16.4% more soya than last year, which could increase their production by around 2m tonnes and all these factors point towards a heavy stock situation as the northern hemisphere harvest gets closer.

On potatoes, the latest figures from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) show British potato stock levels down 13% on the five-year average following a tough 2018 growing season.

Levels were, however, comparable to other tight supply seasons and are only slightly lower than at the same point in 2013-14 and 2015-16 and higher than 2012-13. Estimates show grower held stocks were 980,000 tonnes at the end of March, 26% down on the previous year.

Scotland continued to account for a large proportion of total stocks, with 334,00 tonnes, or 34%, estimated to be held in store here. Packing supplies helped support the overall figure, despite supplies for the packing market being down 17% on the previous year and this was still more than the three-year average.

Just under half, or 42% of the crop still in store is intended for the packing market and this is 6% higher than the three-year average at this time in the season. Fresh bag and chipping market stocks are estimated to be 14% down on the three-year average at 153,000 tonnes with stocks 32% lower than at the same time in 2018.

Processing stocks stand at 316,000 tonnes, 17% below the five-year average and a 25% reduction on the previous year.

The dry mild weather so far has allowed planting to progress well and conditions are looking good across the country, but rain will soon be required to get crops growing.

The GB weekly average price at April 27 was down £3.38 to £204.87 and the free-buy price was up £6.92 to £229.01 per tonne.