The weather in my part of the Borders is unsettled following a dry and relatively sunny spell and this has coincided with winter barley harvest starting in Norfolk and Lincolnshire – but it’s too early to get an accurate feel for quality and yield.

The stats show there has been a further increase in the Scottish winter barley area in 2019 of around 16% and the GB area overall is up 11% from 2018, and this increased area will increase domestic production which could have a detrimental impact on prices.

The estimated Scottish spring barley area is 5% lower than last year and will be the second lowest spring barley area in Scotland in the past 10 years. In the south of England, the spring barley area has increased, mainly in order to control blackgrass.

Of the total winter and spring barley area, 69% is grown for malting and this is similar to 2018. Growing conditions, so far, have been good for low N malting barley, which may result in the malting premium against feed price being less than it was at the start of last year’s harvest.

Yield potential is much improved, though, on last year’s drought-hit crop, with estimates of over 5.5t/ha for spring and averaging over 7.5t/ha for winter barley.

Almost all regions of Scotland and England have recorded an increased wheat area and this is partly due to good prices during the 2018-19 marketing season. The GB wheat area is estimated at 1.802m ha, an increase of 4% from 2018 and the Scottish wheat area is estimated at 103,000 ha, an increase of 3% from 2018.

Early stages of wheat grain fill are beginning and if crops aren’t damaged by storms this weekend, further sunshine should see yields towards the normal range of 8-8.5t/ha.

The area of oats in GB is estimated at 178,000 ha, an increase of 9% from last year, the Scottish oat area is put at 36,000ha, which is a 12% increase from 2018 and average yields of just under 6t/ha are expected.

In Scotland, the oilseed rape area has reduced to a lesser extent than seen in England, down 9% at 31,000ha, due to significantly less pest damage. Due to poor establishment in the dry autumn, followed by cabbage stem flea beetle damage, planting in England has been hacked to the lowest level since 2003. These crops have been replaced with cereals.

Wheat prices have fallen considerably this past week as supplies continue to come on to the market causing farm gate prices to fall. New crop markets are now focussing on the European harvest, which is now underway.

Prices are not helped by a high yielding US wheat crop and surplus balance sheets forecast in all major output areas. Traders are expecting price levels for EU and UK wheat to move lower if crops perform at an average level or better over the harvest period.

French wheat crop conditions look positive with 75% rated good or very good and the Ukrainian wheat harvest is progressing well at 22% complete, with yields ahead of last year. The latest harvest report from the US shows harvest behind average but quality is favourable.

Last week’s AHDB planting and variety survey put the UK wheat area up 4% on 2018 and if yields average 8.3t/ha, then UK wheat production could reach 15m tonnes. If that happens, then we’ll need exports to get rid of the surplus.

Competition for UK exports into southern Europe is likely to come from Ukraine and currently Ukrainian feed wheat delivered free on board for August is being offered at £142 per tonne and UK feed wheat on the same terms for July was offered at £156 per tonne last week.

The Liffee feed wheat futures for November, 2019, have dropped from £153 on June 28, to £147.25 on July 9 and September 1, 2018, November wheat futures stood at £168.00 and dropped to £142 in May this year before picking up again. May, 2020, futures last September were at £173 and are now at a worrying £155 per tonne. This points to a steady decrease as time progresses for what is expected to be a large global wheat harvest.

Ex-farm milling wheat was down 20p last week to £173.60, feed wheat was down £2 to £146.10 and feed barley was down £1.50 to £123.30, which is still a sizeable discount to feed wheat of more than £20 per tonne.

The AHDB Survey estimated the English oilseed rape area for this harvest at 483,000ha which would be a 16-year low. In Scotland, the area has reduced to a lesser extent, down 6% at 31,000 ha, because we generally tend to suffer from less pest damage.

Across Europe, this all means that EU oilseed rape production is projected to drop this year to 17.86m tonnes, compared to 19.7m tonnes in 2018. The Ukrainian oilseed rape harvest is approaching 20% complete and it is expecting a record crop of around 3.9m tonnes.

As for other protein, the global market looks well supplied for the 2019-20 season for soyabeans as increased Chinese buying of US crop has supported markets, but the impact of swine fever will be an issue for soya prices and will result in placing a ceiling on EU rapeseed prices.