Until the beginning of this week, we had mostly dry, warm weather to let work proceed – winter grain has been sown into good seed beds and potato lifting was progressing non-stop.

But we've more than made up for it this week, with some part experiencing some tremendous downpours. That should sort out the problem of bruising when harvesting potatoes due to dry conditions – some crops were even irrigated to stop the potatoes from further damage.

No matter where you look, there appears to be loads of problems in the country – agricultural businesses are being compromised by many issues including lack of haulage vehicles, shortage of gas leading to expensive fertiliser, fuel shortages causing higher prices, labour shortages causing produce in the fields to be left unharvested and then unable to be delivered to their destination, resulting in huge financial losses and empty supermarket shelves, abattoirs not working to capacity, lack of spare parts to keep machinery going and so the list goes on and on and there does not seem to be a remedy out there to sort these problems out.

This is all happening alongside the ongoing Covid pandemic and the understaffed NHS working tirelessly to keep us all safe and again there is no end in sight to this worldwide disease.

Earlier in the month, CF Fertilisers announced that it had halted production at its two factories due to the cost of production based on the current gas price. Following talks with the government, production started up a week later at one of its sites, but this support is only for three weeks.

CF produces around 40% of UK ammonium nitrate fertiliser from two sites, so there will still be a shortage with another big player, Yara, cutting its European production by 40%, though it has secured supplied for other parts of the world which have not been compromised by spiralling gas prices – as yet!

This is sure to produce an increase in AN prices which are currently at near record levels. In July, AN was quoted at £326 per tonne and looking forward, October/November prices are now being quoted at £475-£480 per tonne.

Perhaps able to counterbalance some of that increase, is the fact that UK feed wheat futures for November, 2022, are at their highest level at this time for 10 years and currently stand at £179 per tonne. The November, 2021, Liffee feed wheat futures currently stand at £193, which is £10 up on two weeks ago and for May, 2022, stand at £199 per tonne, again up £10 per tonne.

Another upside is that it's been a great autumn planting season and all the crops that were forecast to be planted will have been sown into good seedbeds, or will be once the potatoes have been lifted – unless we experience really heavy rainfall in the next few weeks.

So, the prediction should be for a good UK wheat harvest next year, but the UK still looks set to remain a nett importer of wheat for the 2021-22 season. Therefore, it remains important to keep costs of production under control and adjust accordingly should input costs rise further, especially as fertiliser costs make up over one third of the cost of production for grain and oilseed rape.

The Liffee feed wheat futures remains only £4 per tonne away from the contract high achieved in the middle of August following higher world market prices, due in part to good wheat exports from the EU and USA.

However, EU wheat export availability has been cut by 1.7m tonnes down to 31m tonnes because of lower EU wheat production estimates, which now stands at 129.1m tonnes. To date the EU has exported 6.5m tonnes, or 3m tonnes ahead of this time last season – the US has exported 23.81m tonnes which is about 3m tonnes less than last season.

World wheat production is now estimated at 781m tonnes which is slightly down on previous estimates due to lower output from the EU and Canada and wheat stocks are down by 2m tonnes to 277m tonnes.

Canada has seen its wheat production fall from 35.2m tonnes last year to 21.7m tonnes this year due to drought badly affecting yields, but on the other hand Australia had a second year of bumper wheat crop and so far, has exported 5m tonnes.

Some 2m tonnes of that total has gone to China, despite an ongoing trade war between the two countries. China had to buy more wheat from Oz as it cancelled wheat it had bought from France due to its poor quality.

This season, only 25%-30% of the French wheat crop met the benchmark minimum for milling wheat and the export specification of 76kg/Hl, compared to last season when 98% made the required standard.

This year, to date, 35% of common wheat exports from the EU have come from Romania, with a further 18% from Bulgaria, which represents 35% of all exports coming from Eastern European states and the EU is expected to export 30m tonnes this season.

As has been the case in France, this year’s provisional GB cereal quality results up to the September 7 show domestic milling wheat varieties having low specific weights. The average specific weight of UK flour millers Group 1 varieties at 75.3kg/hl is the lowest since 2012 when it was 70.7kg/Hl.

Wheat proteins are averaging 13.3% across Group 1 samples and the average Hagberg falling number is 286, the lowest start to the Cereal Quality Survey results since 2017. So far only 23% have met the Group1 spec', 9% down on last year.

This has seen milling premiums rise to the highest they’ve been for six years of £30-£38 per tonne above feed prices.

The world maize output has been increased to a record 1.209bn tonnes due to increased production in Russia and the US. World stock estimates are put at 282m tonnes, or 12m tonnes up on previous estimates and up 8m tonnes on the year.

Maize imports into the UK depends on wheat availability and the cost of importing maize. Last season, the UK imported a record 2.86m tonnes partly due to the small wheat crop of 9.7m tonnes. For the first six months of last season, UK feed wheat futures were more than £60 above Chicago maize futures and this price gap and the problems of finding UK grain after a small crop made imports attractive.

A larger UK wheat crop this harvest could reduce import requirements, although the market still looks finely balanced, so maize imports still look set to be required.

EU-27 countries supply 42% of the UK’s maize needs, with Ukraine supplying a further 27%.

UK feed barley prices increased this past week driven by the rising wheat market. The barley discount to wheat has widened, mainly due to the lack of export interest. UK domestic demand continues to be heavier in recent months as compounders come to the market for winter supplies.

Malting barley prices also remain firm as demand for export for mainland Europe sets the pace. Taking into consideration the more than adequate supply of good quality barley available in the UK, premiums are holding up well for now.

Nitrogen in spring barley samples is significantly lower this year at 1.45% and is down 0.38% from the five-year survey results last year. The lower nitrogen requirement for distilling markets is a key part of Scottish barley demand which will have pulled this down – as well as the weather conditions.

Average specific weights across both winter and spring samples are down from last year and this could reflect the large volume of Scottish samples included in the data. Screenings are also higher this year with winter barley retained by a 2.5mm sieve at 85.3%, or 8.9% lower than at the same point last year and spring barley samples are better but still down slightly.

Spring bean yields seem to be better than last year, with crops ranging from 4.5-5.5 t/ha and quality is much better, with bruchid damage levels below 10% in many samples suitable for a human consumption premium. Premiums range from £15-£20 per tonne over feed and it looks like the UK will have 20-25% more beans to market this year.

The possibility of another La Nina weather event in South America is casting uncertainty over oilseed crop potential there, but there is some comfort as the US maize and soybean harvests get underway and the US maize harvest is now 10% complete with the soya harvest 6% done and in line with the five-year average.

Conditions for maize crops in western and central Europe remain positive and this includes major European producers France, Germany and Poland. However, hot dry conditions in southern Europe, including Romania, reduced yield potential. The EU 27 maize yield potential forecast is now 7.78 t/ha, just above the five-year average of 7.75 t/ha.

Over the last six-months, oilseed markets enjoyed more support than others, partly due to China buying a large tonnage of soyabeans while the South American crops were smaller.

Looking to the future, it will be interesting to see if this support leads to an increase in planted rapeseed area and the rapeseed price support look set to stay in the short to medium-term as the supply and demand estimates cut rapeseed stocks-to-use ratio to just 5.2%.

Stock-to-use ratio tightened also for soya oil, proving a key driver of markets recently. Canada also cut its production forecast down to 12.8m tonnes, which is 1.2m tonnes less than older estimates.

With global supplies of oilseeds and vegetables tight, continued support seems likely. Canada is the biggest exporter of rapeseed in the world and last year produced a crop of 19.5M tones and this year is looking at a crop of 12.8M tonnes which is a reduction of 34.4%. This will see Canada’s rapeseed exports fall from 10.6M tonnes in 2020-21 down to less than 4M tonnes in 2021-22.

Australia is looking at a bigger tonnage this year of around 5M tonnes which would be 1M tonnes more than last year which would be a help, but not go anywhere near to replacing the deficit from Canada’s low output.

There are some issues to watchout for in China where their economy is looking at a potential downturn and their demand for oilseeds and their buying power could be compromised, and if a fresh outbreak of Covid-19 takes place then their demand for product could badly affect the tonnage required from China, the world’s largest oilseed buyer. China is however buying cargoes of Brazilian soybeans which suggests that China is short of supplies and still in the marketplace to buy more.