We are at that time of the year when just about all the work to crops before harvest have been done, nutrients and most chemical applications are complete and in the lull before the storm of harvest approaches.

Let's not take that literally. Weather can still have a part to play but with modern day chemicals crops do not tend to go down with heavy rain or wind as they did in 1985 – unless corners have been cut with growth regulator and stiffener applications.

Harvest machinery servicing is underway, along with grain driers that have been lying idle for quite some time. Soon it will be all hands on deck to gather in the crops once more but how easy this will happen will depend on the weather pattern over the next few months.

Given the dry spring, crops are generally looking well and the 73.9mm of rain in June have been enough to help fill the heads and for the year to date 259.7 mm, or just over 10 inches of rain, have fallen in my part of the Borders. However, potatoes are still continuing to benefit from regular supplies of irrigated water as required.

UK Liffee feed wheat futures currently stand at £166.50 and rose during the week from £163.15 and could have been higher, but held back by the rise in the strength in sterling which was up by 0.94% against the euro to close last weekend at £1 = €1.1096. July, 2021, futures stand at £160.80 and November, 2021, stand at £151.65.

There has been recent price support from reduced grain production forecasts especially in the EU but wheat supplies from the southern hemisphere will make up for any shortfall. The November feed wheat futures have been very volatile as weather reports have varied and in early September last year November wheat futures stood at £140.30 and in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak in March, November wheat futures stood at £174.95.

EU-27 wheat production forecasts have been cut by over 4m tonnes to 117.2m tonnes, which is 7% below their average production and the 130.9m tonnes produced last year and the UK at around 10.5m tonnes is well back on last year’s 16.5m tonnes.

France is expected to only produce 30.3m tonnes and with the reduced UK tonnage the year-on-year production will be down by over 20m tonnes. So, EU-27 exports this season will be around 43m tonnes but will be down around 25m tonnes and will leave an estimated year-end stock of 6.6m tonnes which is less than a three-week supply and that's unlikely to be sufficient to meet consumer needs.

The USDA had also highlighted cuts in the US wheat planted area for this year’s wheat harvest down to around 44.3m acres, which would make the acreage the lowest since records began back in 1919 and this is due primarily to a reduced spring wheat area of 12.2m acres.

Harvest is progressing in the Ukraine, where yields are reported as poor and this appears to be the case in Russia where wheat production is expected to be down around 80.9m tonnes. Yield results from France are mixed as its wheat harvest gets under way with around 4% of harvest completed.

The US wheat harvest is now nearly 50% complete and yields appear to be satisfactory, also Australia’s wheat production for this year is estimated to reach 26.6m tonnes – or 11.5m tonnes up on last year. That means Oz is expected to export around 65% of its total wheat production, an increase of 7.8m tonnes year-on-year to 17m tonnes.

The Ukraine will be the world’s fifth largest wheat exporter this season, shipping more than 20.5m tonnes but a smaller 2020 wheat crop will mean that it will have less to export next year.

Argentina has now planted 71% of its wheat crop and is expected to plant around 6.5m ha. That makes it one of the world’s major wheat exporters, producing 21m tonnes and exporting two-thirds of it.

The International Grains Council increased world wheat production in its latest report with production up again to 768m tonnes which is 6m tonnes up on last year. An increase for China to 135m tonnes and Australia to 26.2m tonnes, up from 15.2m tonnes last year, outweighs the cuts in production in the EU countries.

World wheat stocks remain at 290m tonnes and year-end wheat stocks for the major wheat exporters has been cut back by 3m tonnes to 65m tonnes.

Maize crops in the US and France continue to look good, supporting the view that global maize production could be high in 2021. Production has been estimated at 1,172m tonnes which is up on previous estimates.

US farmers are reported to have planted 37.2m ha with maize for harvest 2020 with a forecast production at a record 406.3m tonnes, up 60.4m tonnes from 2019 and 21.5m tonnes above the record tonnage in 2016.

The USDA estimate global maize production to exceed demand in 2021 by around 31m tonnes with stocks rising to the highest level since 2017-18 and this is expected to put pressure on both maize and feed wheat prices but an increase in ethanol production which was up 6% on last week will support the market. Bioethanol stocks, however, continue to decline in the US and stand at 20.16m barrels as at the end of June and is the lowest total since January, 2017.

The UK is expecting a large barley crop in 2021 and there will be added pressure on feed grains from the arrival of cheap maize imports, which could see maize replacing wheat in feed rations later this year.

The UK winter barley harvest is due to start anytime now especially on the lighter soils that suffered from the earlier drought period. Harvest is already under way in France with mixed reports on yields and grain quality so far.

UK feed barley prices have weakened and has maintained its discount to feed wheat of around £30-£35 which again makes it a cheaper input for feed rations and prices could come under further pressure with exports from other countries coming to the UK.

Canadian farmers have planted 3.04m ha of barley which is the most since 2009 and could see production of 9.6m tonnes which will add to the global barley stocks that are set to reach their highest level since 2015-16.

Australia is expected to export around 65% of its total barley production, which would be an increase of 7.8m tonnes year-on-year at 17.0m tonnes and would see 4.4m tonnes available for export. This is likely to have significant implication for UK prices, especially given the UK also has a large barley crop expected this year.

This situation will not be helped with Spain and Portugal absent from the UK export market due to good growing conditions, so not requiring to import any barley from the UK which is normally where a large tonnage is sent each year.

Oilseed rape markets have been supported by Brent crude oil prices picking up on the back of tightening supplies as the global economy restarts and oil was up $1.74 per barrel to $42.76.

UK rapeseed oil delivered Erith was quoted at £335 for August delivery and £346 for November. The 2020 EU and UK rapeseed crop is now estimated at 16.54m tonnes, though estimates have gradually been downgraded due to dry spring weather and pest damage.

Support for oilseed rape prices has been off the back of soyabean markets as well as the upturn in crude oil prices. The USDA forecast the soyabean planted area at 83.8m acres which was lower than expected and saw prices moving up by more than 4% to levels not seen since early March.

UK OSR prices have followed this trend but to a lesser extent, but much of the benefit of firm global markets has been taken away by strengthening sterling.