Apart from the very odd sunny day, the wet dreich autumn weather has continued throughout the month of November.

Very little fieldwork has been possible and the potato harvest is still some way from being completed, with an estimated 11% of the UK potato crop still to lift and in the North of England and Yorkshire/Humber areas there's still thought to be 30% of the crop to lift after having more than 175% of normal rainfall in October.

The estimated total tonnage this season was put at between 4.8-5.1m tonnes, but due to the lateness of lifting these figures could well change. Much will depend on how much area is lost to the weather and the quality achieved from the atrocious harvest.

Planted area was 118,953 ha, which was a slight increase on last year, but still one of the lowest on record and with much of the crop so wet at harvest, quality will become an issue. There's also concerns for the crop in store, a factor which will increase as time goes by – rots could well be a major problem.

UK wheat futures for November, 2020, closed last weekend at £154.30 and that meant that futures had fallen by £4.95 in the last week. However, earlier this week there was a small rally to £156.75 due to market support because of the wet weather in Western and Eastern Europe.

Last year at this time, futures stood at £154, while

May, 2020, futures currently stand at £151, £10 less than a year ago.

Due to the unprecedented weather over the last two months, cropping plans have changed dramatically and the intended UK winter wheat area is due to decline by 9%. This includes a significant 358% rise in an expected spring wheat area where seed is now getting expensive and difficult to source.

It all means that the wheat area is expected to be the smallest since 2013 and that estimated area of 1.65m ha could drop further if the wet weather continues through to January. Winter barley is estimated down by 12% and oilseed rape is currently forecast to drop by 23% – or the lowest area since 2002.

Winter OSR area could drop even further due to ongoing issues post-establishment as some crops have been devastated by cabbage stem flea beetle attacks and heavy rainfall.

This could mean that spring barley could see 915,000 ha in the ground, which would be a 28% increase from the 2019 harvest and oats are planned to be up 10% with pulses up 24%.

We had similar weather in the 2013-14 planting season when again major changes took place in the planted areas due to a wet autumn. Then, the UK arable area recorded a 19% drop in the area planted to winter wheat; winter barley was down 19% and spring barley was up by 46%. We will see a similar pattern again.

This will lead to a greater supply of malting barley which will result in premium price over feed dropping. Looking back at weekly average UK ex-farm prices during August, this premium is typically around £10-£15/tonne but this premium can range to over £40/tonne in years of tighter availability and as little as around £6/tonne in years of plenty, such as in 2013-14. So premiums this harvest could fall again to such lows.

The UK still has a significant exportable surplus of barley to export despite a high pace of exports leaving the UK over the last five months of the crop year. This will have to continue at a good rate if the surplus is to be cleared before harvest 2020 begins. The domestic barley market continues to hold a £16 discount to wheat to keeps barley exports competitive.

Short-term demand from the EU before the next Brexit deadline at the end of January is limited, with many buyers already covered for both feed and malting barley and firmer currency and increased competition from southern hemisphere countries has impacted the competitiveness of UK barley export prices.

The latest figures put EU wheat exports more than 50% ahead of this time last year, with more than 10m tonnes shipped, but this pace will have to continue to keep markets steady and EU 28 wheat exports of 28.8m tonnes is 8m tonnes higher than 2018.

There has been very little rainfall in the east of the European continent and into Southern Russia and Ukraine. Coupled with low moistures and no snow cover, the winter crops there are exposed and vulnerable to any blasts of freezing weather if they occur.

This is a complete contrast to the western side of Europe which has endured excessive rain and delayed planting, leading to French farmers only so far completing 74% of winter wheat planting, compared to 97% at this time last year – wheat crop ratings are put at 78% 'good to excellent', which is four points down on last year.

Despite all the weather and planting issues for EU crops, the International Grains Council increased its forecast for the 2020-2021 global wheat area, predicting a 1% increase to a total world wheat area of 218m ha, driven by a greater expansion in Russia. That's even though, due to dry soil conditions, the Ukraine will have a fall in winter wheat area.

Global wheat production estimates for 2019-20 remains unchanged at 762m tonnes, which is 29m tonnes up on last year and end stocks at 271, tonnes, up 6, tonnes on 2018.

UK physical oilseed rape prices rose last week and the outlook for UK crops look favourable. The UK supply of oilseed rape is tight for 2019-2020 and is expected to remain tight after the 2020 harvest.

Oilseed rape delivered price to Erith for December stands at £338, which is up £2.50 on the week. Lending further support to rapeseed is the underlying strength of the veg-oil market as palm oil futures have risen over 20% since the start of October due to a combination of strong export demand and lower than expected supply in October.

It is likely that we will see a lower use of rapeseed oil in industrial use and biodiesel plants can then switch to alternative oils, which do not function well in low winter temperatures. Also, the issues with supplies of canola from Canada and Australia could lend support to prices.

The EU rapeseed deficit has seen a large tonnage of oilseed rape imports into the EU and the figure up to November 10 is 2.68m tonnes. Given that the EU is forecast to need 6m tonnes this season, questions remain as to where this tonnage will come from – Ukraine has already exported 2.3m tonnes to the EU and that accounts for 83% of Ukraine’s estimated rapeseed exports.

US soyabean futures prices have dropped by over 3% this month whilst efforts to find a solution to the ongoing trade dispute between the US and China continue. Markets dropped to their lowest level since the end of September and with the USDA confirming ample global stocks of not only soya, but also sunflower seed and rapeseed, a market recovery looks unlikely.