FINALLY we have had a drier week to allow landwork to get going at last and good progress has been made.

However, April started with more than 100mm or four inches of rain in the first week and many fields were flooded yet again.

Soil temperatures are low but according to the met office figures, the average night temperature was 0.1C warmer than ever before and daytime temperature was 1.5C higher than experienced before in April.

In some parts of England, between last August and February, it has been the wettest spell since 1837.


Oilseed rape is looking well and now the yellow fields that are flowering can be spotted all over the countryside – and there seems to be a lot of it around.

Forecasters are predicting there will be a lot less milling wheat available for millers from this coming harvest and the pundits are already talking about higher prices for bread and flour.

They are also predicting that the production of wheat, barley, oats and oilseed rape could fall in the UK by 4mt compared to 2023, which would be a reduction of 17.5% and is due to the unusually wet weather seen over autumn and winter. It will affect brewers and distillers as well.

The downside could be as high as 5mt – which would be a reduction of 21.2% if compared to the average production of between 2015-2023. Wheat production could be hit particularly hard with estimates of a fall of 26.5% compared to 2023.

This is because milling wheat used to make bread needs to meet a higher quality requirement and will be more difficult to achieve with the wet weather. We have already seen the Liffe old crop feed wheat futures for May jump by nearly £8 in one day recently. The figure currently stands at £183 and is at its highest level since January this year.

It is a similar story for November new crop wheat futures which are also at their highest since January and are currently standing at £206/t – again up by more than £6 in one day and has seen the carry between old and new crop futures widen to nearly £23/t.

Over the past four weeks, both old and new crop futures have risen by £12/t with dry weather in Russia being one of the issues for the coming harvest, potentially reducing their expected tonnage of wheat.

Looking at the global picture, grain production in 2024-25 is forecast to be down on previous estimates to 2,322mt due to a smaller US maize tonnage and lower US planting due to dry weather in the western wheat plains.

Worldwide wheat production is now at 7877.36mt with consumption up slightly at 800mt which reduced end stocks to 258mt. EU wheat production was also reduced to 120mt which would be the lowest tonnage for four years as France reported their wheat crop at 64% good to excellent, compared to 93% earlier.

Russia is looking at a 93mt wheat crop this harvest, but high temperatures and lack of rain are now giving concerns about yield potential.

So far this season, from last July to February, UK wheat exports totalled 176mt which is 81% below the same period last season and for the whole season estimates are forecast at 270,000t which would be 83% down on last year.

Imports of wheat into the UK from July to February totalled 1.43mt, which is up 57% from the same period last year. Most imports are mainly high protein milling wheat due to the lack of high-quality wheat available here in the UK.

An issue with UK cereal exports is that historically domestic UK prices are too high. Looking back at figures produced in 2022, the UK had the fourth highest ex-farm price behind Spain, Germany and Canada which meant that Denmark, France, Ukraine and the US were cheaper.

Recently, in November 2023, UK futures traded at a premium to Paris milling wheat futures and while parts of Western Europe have also struggled with poor planting conditions as we have here, UK prices are higher in comparison with other countries.


Following a spell of drier weather last week, grain drills could be seen working to catch up on the backlog of work and a lot of spring grain has gone into good seed beds, but soil temperatures are still low as we still experience frost at night on a regular basis.

The latest figures put spring barley planting in Scotland at over 80% and increasing as the weather allows. Barley exports for this season to date total 539,200t which is 31% down from the same period last year – and is due to a tighter year-on-year balance because of decreased availability and higher domestic consumption.

Imports of barley for the season to date total 119,800t which is more than double for the same period last season. Earlier the tonnage was mainly high-quality malting barley but now is expected to be mainly feed quality, mostly heading for Northern Ireland.


Imports of oats into the UK for the season to date total 94,200t which is 48% above the five-year average of 63,800t but 27% below for the same period last season at 128,600t.

Oat exports for the UK to EU countries total 86,200t so far and 37,800t were exported to Belgium,19,800t to Spain and 15,400t to the Netherlands. The initial UK export estimate for the season was put at 105,000t so to reach this figure, 2700t per month for the remainder of the season will need to be shipped.

Oilseed rape

Rape crops here in the Borders are looking well now they are flowering, but this does not seem to be the case in other parts of the UK due to the poor weather coupled with disease issues.

This has seen prices increase and delivered rape to Erith for April 2024 was quoted at £373/t. Europe’s rapeseed crop remains under pressure from heavy rainfall in the western region and from a lack of rain in the east. For 2023-24, the EU and Canada – the first and second largest global producers of rapeseed – accounted for 44% of global rapeseed production so with EU 2024 rapeseed area down 3.6% and Canada down 3%, this could put pressure on the global supply demand balance.

Rapeseed prices are dependent on how global soyabean production works out as it has 74% of the major oilseed production so soyabean markets carry a strong influence over the whole oilseed industry.

Crude oil markets saw prices rising and have continued to do so in recent months. Nearby Brent crude futures rose above $90/barrel earlier last month which had not been seen since October 2023 and this is also providing some support for the biofuels market.


Global urea prices have eased due to higher supplies and lower demand, especially from the European, Indian and North American markets. UK and ammonium nitrate supplies continue to be tight, but the UK is estimated to produce approximately 40% of its nitrogen requirements with the remainder imported.

In June 2022, CF Fertilisers UK announced the closure of one of its two plants but Yara has plans to open a new plant in Yorkshire by the end of next year. The UK imports ammonium nitrate from Europe with Lithuania and Poland together accounting for 75% of imports last year.

EU gas supplies and price movements will be important for nitrogen fertiliser prices and, in 2023, the US and Norway accounted for 49% of natural gas supplies to the EU, while Russia accounted for only 15% – down from 45% in 2021.