Following rain earlier in October, last week saw better weather return and ploughed land was starting to dry up and this should allow potato lifting to continue and autumn sowing to finish.

Last year at this time potato harvesting had been more or less completed and winter field work was well underway to being up to speed too.

With the projected October 31 deadline for Brexit not now going to happen, with a possible three-month extension agreed by the EU, this should allow some breathing space for more wheat and barley exports to take place, without the tariffs that were going to be in place from the end of October. As has become the norm with Brexit, it is an ongoing situation where we don’t know what the outcome of the next round of negotiations, both here in Westminster and Brussels, is going to be – but don’t hold your breath for an agreement even at the end of a possible three months' extension.

The UK continues to export both feed and malting barley at a good pace, but we have significant surpluses of both feed and malting barley. With an exportable surplus of spring barley in the UK and that extended window for tariff-free exports, feed barley values have firmed slightly in nearby positions to ports as shippers look to cover business that is already on sales contracts.

One consequence, however, of the wet weather during prime sowing time this autumn would be a knock-on effect to next spring and increasing spring barley planting.

UK barley prices, though, are influenced to some extent by wheat values and some firming of wheat futures last week helped in that respect. However, premiums for malting barley remain low and will continue to be so until a resolution of the Brexit situation is complete – traders are not going to risk purchases unless it is for immediate movement to maltsters.

Results for this year’s winter barley harvest show yields averaging between 7.4-7.6 t/ha, which is a 5.8% increase on the five-year average of 7 t/ha and hybrid varieties average from 8-12 t/ha, with conventional two and six-row varieties yielding between 7-8 t/ha.

Spring barley yields are put at 5.8-6 t/ha, which is a slight increase on the five-year average of 5.6 t/ha. Malting variety yields were between 5.5-9 t/ha and feed varieties reached up to 10 t/ha.

Oilseed rape prices in the UK have drifted down this past week and are now trading at £20 per tonne below early October's highs. Much of this can be attributed to the strength of sterling.

Increasing sterling strength against both the dollar and the euro in the last two weeks has seen the pound rise 4% against the euro and at present £1 equates to around €1.16 which puts pressure on UK cereal prices and makes the UK less competitive for the export markets. This has seen oilseed rape delivered Erith fall by £17.50 per tonne during October.

However the UK market is expected to remain tight, with demand held up by good crush margins and ongoing concerns about prospects for the 2020 harvest, plus obtaining supplies from Canada and Australia is not easy as rapeseed harvesting there has been very difficult, with lower production and thus a lower exportable surplus to the EU, who rely on supplies from these countries.

European markets have been under pressure this past month as demand for rapeseed oil is threatened by competition from sunflower oil which is a cheaper alternative. Sunflower seed crops in Russia and Ukraine have been huge this year, pushing Russian market prices down to five-year lows.

Another factor on the market has been that China has offered a 10m-tonne tariff-free import quota to major Chinese soyabean processors enabling an exemption from US tariffs until March. However China, at the moment, is currently opting for cheaper Brazilian origin beans.

Nearer to home, the London Liffee new crop wheat futures prices for November, 2020, are trading £4-£5 above the old crop May, 2020, futures and markets are working to see this year’s surplus supplies could be used to possibly meet some of next season’s demand, due to that potential of a lower planted area this autumn.

UK feed wheat futures have been under pressure due to Brexit uncertainty and a lack of export demand and the spread between November, 2019, UK feed wheat futures and May, 2020, has widened throughout October. As at October 25, the spread had widened to £10 per tonne, which is the largest gap between November and May contracts for this time of year over the past 10 years.

November, 2019, futures currently stand at £135 and May, 2020, stand at £145.15 and at this time last year the figures were £159 for November and £164 for May.

This year's UK wheat production, at 16.28m tonnes, will put pressure on domestic markets and the surplus of wheat available for free stock, or for export is estimated at 2.88m tonnes this season. Coupled with Brexit uncertainty, the UK will need to remain price-competitive in a well-supplied global market, with uncertainty continuing on tariff access to EU markets post-Brexit.

By the end of last week, this season’s EU wheat exports had exceeded 8m tonnes, compared to 5.7m tonnes at that time last year.

The GB national average wheat yield is estimated at 8.8-9 t/ha, an increase on the five-year average of 8.3t/ha, Milling varieties yielded 6.6-11 t/ha whilst feed varieties yielded 7.0-12.5 t/ha.

Other influences from across the globe include the fact that Australia has been having a difficult time with drought and this is likely to result in its wheat production being reduced quite considerably.

Going on to next season, Russia has had good winter drilling conditions this autumn and recently had sown 17.6m ha, a figure that was likely to rise to 19.2m ha, which would be the most ever achieved. Some 90% of this total would be sown with wheat and recent rain and warm weather has helped crop development.

This is in contrast to France and the UK, where both have had difficult autumn sowing conditions – France had only 29% of its wheat area sown, compared 50% planted at this time last year.

Global maize production is forecast to be down 1m tonnes from previous estimates to 1.098bn tonnes. China has seen its maize crop estimate increased to 255.5m tonnes and year-on-year world maize production is 30m tonnes lower.

Yields for other crops have also been released and for winter oats the national average yield is estimated between 5.5-5.7 t/ha, slightly below the five-year average of 5.6t/ha. Milling oats yielded 6.0-9.0t/ha and feed oats 7.0-7.5t/ha. Yields on spring oats were more variable, with some poor yields in Northern England and Scotland ranging between 4.4-6.5t/ha.

As of October 22, 70% of the GB potato area, excluding seed, had been lifted. Following heavy rain in late September, soils moved from being too dry to too wet in just a few days. This unsettled weather continued throughout early and mid-October resulting in a stop-start potato harvest.

Access to the fields with large machinery was the main limiting factor and there are reports of crops in the North in standing water that have been written off due to the inability to access the field.

Quality has been variable over the lifting period and the main issues have arisen from crops that have been in standing water. Above average levels of blackleg and associated rots are reported on particularly saturated soils.

Concerns over storage issues are common in all regions and with higher soil content in the sample going into store this slowing the drying process and reducing airflow through the crops. There are also increasing reports of rots in lifted crops, which combined with wet crops going into store increase the risk of rots spreading.