This past week has seen some variable weather throughout Scotland with heavy rain, flooding and thunder in many areas – but here in the Eastern Borders we escaped the worst of that weather.

However, we have had cloudy and misty weather coming in off the North Sea, but western areas of the country have had some great warm spells of sunshine.

Depending on the local area weather, harvest has progressed, with winter barley and oilseed rape pretty much tidied up and some wheat has been cut before the spring barley, which is not normally how the process works. This due to the long dry spring where spring crops suffered from lack of moisture and resulted in them later maturing and the winter wheat coming ready first instead.

The AHDB second harvest report data up to August 11 indicated the UK winter barley crop at 98% complete, with average yield estimated at 6.3-6.6 tonnes per ha; winter oilseed rape as 89% complete and the national yield estimated at 2.6-3.0 tonne per ha. Wheat was 47% cut, at 7.3-7.8t/ha while spring barley was 12% done and oats, 14%.

Rapeseed imports into the EU27 and the UK have seen a slow start this season even though there are 6m tonnes required this coming season due to difficult sowing conditions and long spells of dry weather, which resulted in lower production estimates now put at 16.8m tonnes.

The Ukraine had also been affected by dry weather and last season it supplied 49% of the EU rapeseed imports from non-EU countries, amounting to 2.8m tonnes, but this figure is unlikely to be repeated this time round.

With a 6m tonne rapeseed requirement, the average weekly import total should average 115,100 tonnes and after the opening five weeks the total stands at only 90,400 tonnes. This is 192,200 tonnes below the figure for the same week last year and 485,100 tonnes off the total required.

With the Ukrainian rapeseed harvest is now forecast down to around 2.8m tonnes this would mean a cut in their export tonnage for 2020-21 of around 800,000 tonnes and with the UK tonnage alone down by a similar amount the EU will have to look for increased tonnage from Australia and Canada later on when their harvest is complete.

With both Australian and Canadian diplomatic relations strained with China, it might be possible that supply originally destined for China could now make its way to the EU27 and the UK.

It may be that some soyabeans could be imported instead as well which are relatively cheap but the soya market is seeing a marked increase in demand due to aggressive buying by China. Last week, China placed orders for 15 US cargoes and in July imported more than 10m tonnes of beans, which represented an increase of 16% over July, 2019.

The US soya crop production totals 120.4m tonnes, which is up 25% on last year and if predicted yields of 3.58 tonnes per ha are achieved, this could be the second largest US soya crop on record.

With Scotland and England wheat production likely to be under 10m tonnes this harvest and despite opening stocks of around 3.4m tonnes, there is going to be a significant deficit. This shortfall could be made up from imported wheat or maize.

As Covid-19 reduced the requirement for ethanol, maize is now very cheap and the required usage for animal feed, ethanol and distilling could more than likely filled by imported maize. Tariffs are about to be set for imported wheat from January, but this does not apply to maize, so makes it even more competitive.

Global maize production is forecast at 1163m tonnes, which is 50m tonnes higher than last year and the US maize crop is now forecast for this year at 388m tonnes – the yield forecast is put at 11.41t/ha which is the largest on record.

This estimate may have to be drastically changed, though, due to a severe storm which swept across the US Midwest last week and is thought to have affected more than 4m ha of arable land in Iowa. The powerful hurricane is reported to have flattened a significant proportion of maize.

Chicago maize futures are currently sitting at a £60-£70 per tonne discount to London wheat futures and the last time that this happened was in 2018-19. That season was also a low wheat production harvest and 2.82m tonnes of maize was imported, with 1.62m tonnes for animal feed and 800,000 tonnes for human and industrial usage.

So, for this season, with another small wheat crop on the cards, but barley production much higher and with maize at such a competitive price, it would seem obvious to import a potential record tonnage of maize for this coming year. And, there is also going to be a large amount of barley that needs to find a home as well.

In June, 2020, UK maltsters, brewers and distillers used 116,900 tonnes of barley – 29% lower than in June, 2019 and the lowest June figure from the AHDB electronic records that go back to July, 1990. This again is as a result of Covid-19 lockdown and means that in 2019-20 a total of 1.77m tonnes of barley was used, which is 6.4% less than in 2018-19.

The UK will require a large domestic barley export campaign this year but as of the week ending August 6 purchased feed barley tonnage for July-August delivery was 26% lower than last year. Feed barley prices from January to August have increased by just £1.90 compared to a £10.30 per tonne increase for UK feed wheat.

Due to Brexit there will be a rush to export as much barley as possible before the end of this year and last year 54% of barley exports were done before the original October deadline, so this year there are two months longer to try and move a big tonnage.

So far this year, the EU27 and the UK new season barley exports are 51% down on last year as of August 9, so there is much work to be done.

UK winter barley yields have ranged from 4 tonner per ha to 9 tonnes per ha and bushel weights are around 65-67kg/hl, so with most grain below 14% moisture this will be ideal for the export market.

Yields for spring barley are generally higher than pre-harvest expectations in England, with yields of 8.5 tonnes per ha being reported. These better than expected yields are pushing the total UK barley crop estimates to more than 7.5m tonnes.

Malting quality in the south of England looks to be generally good but we should remember if only 30% of the malting samples are good enough for malting, the UK will have more malting barley than can be used domestically or exported before the end of December due to falling domestic demand and a large UK spring barley crop.

With the wheat harvest in the south of England now nearly complete, yields have not been as good as expected. Some are down by as much as 50% due to poor planting conditions followed by a hot dry spring and this has seen protein levels down as well and will fail millers' 13% specification.

Yield losses in the UK, France, Germany and Finland outweighed gains in in Spain and the Baltic states, reducing the total EU output to 128m tonnes which is 19m tonnes lower than last year and the exportable surplus is now 12m tonnes lower than last year at 23m tonnes.

During the first five weeks of the export season, less than one million tonnes of this surplus has been moved and this leaves a requirement to export 2m tonnes per month in order to meet export targets.

World wheat production is now estimated at 766m tonnes, which is just 2m tonnes up on 2019, helped by Russia expecting its second largest wheat crop on record at around 80m tonnes and Canada looking at producing 39m tonnes, which would beat the previous record of 37.6m tonnes set in 2013.

This will lead to an increase in world stocks at 316.7m tonnes, which is 16m tonnes up on last year but with India and China not exporting any of their tonnage then the end stocks total will be 2m tonnes lower.