According to my reliable weather information source at Lochton, near Coldstream, we have had 53.8mm, or just over two inches of rain in May – that gives a total in the Eastern Borders for the year of 183.4mm, or 7.2 inches, with very little falling this month.

Crops, though, are looking well and at the end of May AHDB estimated that the UK winter wheat crop was 83% 'good to excellent' due to the warmer weather and rain in May. Due to the higher wheat prices, it is thought that most growers have applied their nitrogen fertiliser as planned' even though some had initially planned to cut back on applications given uncertainty in current and future grain prices, coupled with high input prices.

Winter barley crops are rated as 82% 'good to excellent' and the prolonged dry period earlier had kept disease pressure low in that crop. Recent rain helped retain good yield prospects. Spring barley crops are rated 77% 'good to excellent' and yield prospects are depended on weather from now until harvest.

For winter oats, 86% is rated as 'good to excellent' and again earlier dry weather kept disease levels low, although there has been evidence of some mildew and crown rust.

Winter oilseed rape is rated as 70% 'good to excellent', even with evidence of light leaf spot and sclerotinia as the main disease pressures following the recent rain. Cabbage stem flea beetle is continuing to put pressure on crops that were already damaged, but nationally this represents only a small area.

As the war continues between Russia and Ukraine, there's still a lot of volatility in prices as various rumours abound with regards to potential export of wheat from crop stuck in Ukraine.

As a result, in the last two weeks the July, 2022, Liffee feed wheat futures had fallen from £334.70 down to £288 per tonne and for November, 2022, were down from £334 to £308 per tonne.

Russia had offered to provide a corridor for ships to export wheat from the Ukraine, but this was dependent on sanctions being lifted on Russia for this to happen and this was not acceptable to other countries. It is thought that more than 21m tonnes of grain could be be trapped in the Ukraine due to the Russian navy blockade of the country’s Black Sea ports.

The loss of Ukrainian grain supplies to the world’s major importers has been the cause of the increased wheat prices and the global food crisis. In April, 1.1m tonnes of wheat, barley and maize was exported from the Ukraine and in May, 481,100 tonnes were exported via rail with a further 144,600 tonnes were exported through ports, but is only a fraction of what they would normally be moving.

Russia is still exporting large tonnages of grain, with 2.7m tonnes moved in April and 1.5m tonnes so far in May. It had previously set an export quota of 8m tonnes from mid-February until June 30 and to date 7.9m tonnes are estimated to have been exported. It is believed that Russia is stealing grain from Ukraine for export and Egypt was reported to have turned away a boat from Russia full of stolen Ukrainian wheat.

The US, Canada and some parts of the EU are continuing to have poor weather affecting crops and hindering spring planting. The US' winter wheat is rated as 28% 'good to excellent', which is historically poor. Due to the weather its spring barley planting is only 67% complete, compared to 93% at this time last year.

North Dakota grows half of the US spring wheat crop and with just 27% planted, progress is at the slowest pace ever recorded and in an average year, 80% of the crop would have been planted by this time.

Spring wheat planting in Canada is having similar weather-related problems, but maize planting has seen an improvement and is now 72% completed, even though that's still behind the average at this time.

Again, due to dry weather, EU wheat yield estimates have been reduced from 5.95t/ha to 5.89t/ha, which would drop 1.3m tonnes from the EU crop total and would be 2.5% down on last year’s average yield.

French winter wheat ratings dropped down to 69% 'good to excellent', having fallen by four points previously and again recently by a further nine points. Last year at this time, the crop was rated at 80% 'good to excellent'.

Prolonged heat and dry weather left Iran with an import requirement of more than 7m tonnes of wheat and Russia has done a deal to supply 5m tonnes of grain to help, even though both countries face sanctions.

The Ukrainian agricultural ministry recently reported that spring sowing was almost complete, but the area was 22% down from last year – 189,000 ha of spring wheat, 928,000 ha of spring barley and 4.4m ha of maize had been completed. However, the planned spring cropping area was 14.4m ha this year – down from 16.9ha in 2021.

The USDA published its first 2022-23 world balance sheet estimate, which showed India with a 108.5m tonne wheat crop, predicting that it would be able to achieve an export tonnage of 8.5m tonnes. This tonnage could be crucial, given that Ukraine is unable to export normally.

However, a heatwave there in March affected potential which is now forecast to be 10-15% lower than previously thought. That will reduce its wheat tonnage to 99m tonnes and some forecasters put this tonnage even lower and reduce any export potential, if at all.

According to the latest AHDB UK cereal supply and demand estimates, the UK increased wheat imports and this has seen the wheat balance revised upwards to 2.423m tonnes. On the other side of the coin, wheat imports are now estimated to reach 1.750m tonnes and so far, this season, the UK has imported 1.506m tonnes.

A small decline in animal feed usage is forecast while human and industrial usage remains relatively unchanged from previous estimates. Demand for wheat for flour millers is revised slightly downwards and use by distillers is higher than previous estimates due to switching back from maize usage.

Wheat exports have been revised up to 530,000 tonnes on the back of the UK being competitive on the European market back in late March and April and closing stocks have been revised upwards by 229,000 tonnes to 1.893m tonnes. With an opening stock requirement of 1.5m tonnes, this gives the UK a more comfortable amount of free stock to carry into next season of 393,000 tonnes.

The barley balance remains tight. The latest estimate is 1.819m tonnes and if this is realised, would be the smallest balance since 2007-08 when the UK had a 5m tonne barley harvest.

Animal feed usage is put at 6.270m tonnes which is down on previous estimates as other feed grains have been more price competitive. Like wheat, UK barley was very competitive on the European market earlier in the spring, with full season exports being revised up to 765,000 tonnes, thus leaving barley end stocks at 1.054m tonnes – the tightest in nearly a decade.

UK maize imports were revised up by 201,000 tonnes to 2.18m tonnes, due to stronger demand for maize by the animal feed sector during recent months as well as a rise in the bioethanol industry demand.

Due to a record oat crop this past harvest, there had been a greater supply of UK domestic oats and with rising wheat and barley prices, oat inclusion in compound feed and the amount fed on farm increased. Animal feed usage of oats is now put at 504,000 tonnes.

Oat exports are forecast at a near 20-year high of 125,000 tonnes and due to a strong export market, as well as a rise in animal feed demand, this has led to the oat end stocks being revised down to 111,000 tonnes.

An oil embargo on Russia to cut imports into the EU by 90% before the end of the year has supported the price of crude oil. Nearby Brent crude oil prices as of July, 2022, stand at $121.67/barrel and delivered prices of rapeseed into Erith for harvest 2022 was quoted at the end of last week at £707.50 per tonne – up £6 on the week due partly to currency changes as sterling weakened against the euro by -0.4% last week to close at £1=€1.1768.

Since the Ukraine invasion, oilseed markets had been volatile, just like other commodities and due to shortage of OSR and sunflower seed, demand for soya strengthened. Soyabeans account for 70% of total production of oilseeds such as palm kernel, rapeseed, soya and sunflower. The US has committed to export 59.2m tonnes of soya and China is set to purchase 30.4m tonnes of this and to date 28.1m tonnes have been shipped.

The Brazilian soyabean crop is coming to the market at this time and amounts to some 125m tonnes which will be down 10% year-on-year and China will import a large tonnage of that.