We had no sooner left home for Dubai to visit family based in the UAE, when I get a message telling me about storm Arwen and the resulting damage that had been done throughout the country.

That included damage at home, with 500 lost slates causing internal water damage and chimney issues within the house due to the rain at the same time as well. This was not the ideal start to a break in the sun, which included a visit to Expo 2020, Dubai rugby 7s and the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix.

Expo 2020 was a real eye opener with nearly 200 countries taking part plus, other organisations which covered an area equal to the size of 600 football pitches.

The three main areas were the sustainability, opportunity and mobility pavilions and in the centre was the Al Wasi plaza dome, which is believed to be the biggest unsupported dome in the world.

Read more: Doug Niven as The Gleaner: Wheat hits new highs as inputs soar

We spent quite a lot of time in the sustainability area, which occupied a few hours, including a walk under a virtual forest and under the sea which was fascinating. It gave the impression of being real with all the sound effects and moving objects underground and was supported by lots of information boards, which was very educational.

Included in the sustainability area was an interesting section on hydroponics and there was the largest collection of round solar panels that I have ever seen producing electricity for the event.

I visited many of country pavilions, including the UK, which I have to say was very disappointing with no mention of industry, agriculture, tourism etc, and the focus seemed to be about gathering words to produce a poem at the end of the event which runs for six months from October until March – having cost £millions, I could not see what was to be gained from the expense incurred.

The pavilion did, however, have two large signs outside the restaurant promoting roast beef and fish which was a bit more encouraging.

Back home to the real world and my first impression was of the huge amount of damage that the storm had done, then followed up by storm Barra which, thankfully, was not nearly as bad. I believe we had four inches of rain over this period as well, which only added to the problems caused by severe overnight gales and power cuts.

Over the period we were away, the Omicron variant of Covid-19 also became more apparent and this has had the effect of reducing wheat prices as demand for hospitality dropped resulting in lost business for food and drink outlets.

Over the last four weeks, January, 2022, Liffee feed wheat futures dropped from £226.25 down to £219.55 per tonne; March, 2022, dropped from 230.15 to £221.95; and July, 2022, down from £221.90 to £212.30 per tonne.

Another factor affecting wheat is an increased supply of wheat from major world wheat exporters, such as Argentina, which is expected to produce around 22m tonnes, compared to 17.65m tonnes last year. Russia is also going to have more wheat to export than first thought and its export quotas, which will run from February to June, will not now severely restrict available supplies to the world market.

The Ukraine is also a major wheat exporter of around 24.2m tonnes this year, putting it as the fourth largest global exporter of wheat in 2021-22. Romania accounted for 10.42m tonnes of EU-27 wheat production this season and is the fourth largest EU wheat producer.

The EU is forecasting a 2022-23 wheat crop of 127.6m tonnes, compared to 129.3m tonnes this season due to a lower planted area and lower yields, but as always weather will play a big part in determining final yields.

With ammonium nitrate fertiliser currently around £700 per tonne, less fertiliser is expected to be used which will reduce yield and with expected increased domestic use next year, there could be 1.8m tonnes less available for export, at around 29.7m tonnes.

Recent import figures for urea and AN estimated that the UK is down 10-19% year-on-year and supplies look to be tight as we head into the New Year. There are also concerns for the Black Sea region in south-eastern Europe, where the weather has turned bitter cold over the past month which will affect early wheat development, such as tillering and will pose a risk during winter dormancy in countries such as Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine.

Last week, Defra released its final estimate for the 2021 UK arable cropping which showed that the total wheat area is up by 1%, or 15,000 ha to 1.8m ha. The total barley area is down 4% year-on-year at 1.1m ha, with winter barley increasing its area but spring barley is looking to be down by 8%, or 58,000 ha year-on-year. The UK oat area is estimated to be down by 6%, or 13,000 ha.

The USDA recently published its December World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates which shows world wheat production is 2.61m tonnes higher than previously estimated, up to 777.89m tonnes. Australian production is now up to 34m tonnes, Canada is up to 21.65m tonnes but the increase in world consumption is up by 2m tonnes, to 789.35m tonnes.

Maize is now forecast at a new record high of 1208bn tonnes due to increased production in Argentina and Ukraine, but due to increased demand this leaves end stocks at 305.54m tonnes, which would be just 13m tonnes up on last year.

But these figures will only be achieved if Argentina and Brazil achieve expected production totals but there is the risk from a La Nina weather event which could see dry weather affecting yields for both their maize and soya crops, which this season is forecast to produce 10% of all global grain and 55% of global soya output.

As happened last year, travel restrictions have the potential to reduce global demand for transport fuel, including biofuels made from grains and vegetable oils.

Old crop barley prices have dropped as they followed recent wheat prices lower and freight problems combined with weaker European grain prices has reduced interest in UK feed barley exports.

The UK exported more than 60,000 tonnes of barley in October, taking the season’s total to nearly 330,000 tonnes. Old crop malting barley prices are at a season high and holding firm, despite the Omicron Covid-19 variant restricting social gatherings across Europe.

Earlier this year, it looked like there would be a surge in demand for oilseeds as the world’s economies were coming out of lockdown and stocks at the time were very low due to large quantities of Chinese imports and the poor canola crop in Canada.

European rapeseed markets have risen by over 80% since this time last year with the 2021 crop prices in the UK going up by almost £250.00 per tonne and by comparison the US price of soya has only gone up by 17%.

Looking forward to 2022 new crop, rapeseed is trading at a £150 discount to current prices, but this is because UK oilseed rape plantings are expected to be up by 13% and EU production will be up by over 1m tonnes to hit a five-year high. Canada, on the back of recent high prices, is likely to plant more spring-sown canola and it will be interesting to see how the oilseed market reacts to a much better supplied market going forward.

As we are now past the shortest day, we will soon see daylight hours increasing once again as we get into the new year, and it just leaves me to wish you all the compliments of the season and hope for a less restricted Covid-19 one as well.