What to watch: With rain in the forecast for the weekend, there remain many questions over the likely UK winter wheat area and the impact on the domestic balance sheet.
Globally, wheat prices have come back off recent highs. US wheat exports are continuing to run well ahead of last season.
UK farmers are concentrating on drilling rather than selling grain amid market uncertainty.
The European oilseed market has bounced back, posting a seven-session winning streak.
May-20 LIFFE wheat futures closed on Wednesday October 30 at £147.75/tonne, a rise of £2.65/t on the week.
Since their low point at the end of August, the world’s wheat markets continued to move higher this week.
This increase in prices was illustrated by the purchases Egypt made on Tuesday in its latest tender for shipment during the first half of November. Egypt bought 235,000 tonnes at an average of over $235/t, including freight costs. This is approximately $5/t above its purchases last week which, in turn, were $10/t above its purchases made at the beginning of October.
Interestingly, Russian wheat offers were not competitive despite it supplying over half of the wheat Egypt has bought so far this season. Romania, France and Ukraine secured the business. This will help maintain the fast wheat export pace the EU and Ukraine are enjoying which is currently running 40% ahead of last year.
Meanwhile, as winter drilling delays continue to worry the market, UK wheat prices have rallied further ahead of other origins. While settled weather this week has helped farmers in many regions progress – with some nearing completion – others less fortunate are yet to start. With rain in the forecast for the weekend, there remain many questions over the likely winter wheat area and the impact on the domestic balance sheet.
Simon Ingle, Frontier
Wheat markets continued their upward trend during early October, supported by ongoing crop problems and support from external (corn and soy) markets.
However, the market is starting to run short of positives and prices have retraced off the recent highs as traders bank profits from the recent rally.
Markets need fresh bullish news, but where that will come from remains unclear.
Delayed spring wheat harvests in the US and Canada, in conjunction with declining crop prospects in the southern hemisphere, provided support to the markets, as declining availability is seen as positive to the US export outlook.
In addition, talk coming out of the US/China trade talks added to the bullish sentiment, although many still believe any trade deal will be mainly on soya beans, and may be corn, but not wheat.
However, as the month has progressed, US farmers have managed to complete the spring wheat harvest. Although they are still struggling with adverse weather, they are also well through US corn and soya bean harvests, eliminating some of the supportive factors for the recent rally.
US wheat exports continue to run well ahead of last season, up 23% year-on-year, but the increasing supply of global grains remains a limiting factor to prices.
David Woodland, ADM Agriculture
The uncertainty around Brexit has kept the UK grain trade focused largely at port level. The ports have been very busy ensuring ships sailed before the perceived Brexit cut off date but, yet again, we got a reprieve.
Every deadline has come with its uncertainties and challenges but has also ensured that the trade is well genned up on the ‘what could happen and how to deal with it’.
The market, meanwhile, now has the excitement of deciding what to do next. Trading hadn’t stopped but was certainly more cautious but it won’t take long for EU buyers to come shopping if UK grains are price competitive.
That competitiveness is currently not clear as many UK farmers have closed the silos on concerns around the ability to drill the 2020 harvest crops, in some very wet conditions. Market prices have reflected this, but it would be wise to keep an eye on old crop price competitiveness.
Even if we have a smaller crop next year it won’t have much effect if we end up carrying excessive amounts of this year’s crops over because it was uncompetitive to ship and buyers managed to buy cheaper maize.
This season will certainly keep us all on our toes but trying to second guess the impact of currency, politics and trade wars should be weighed up with risk reward against the real cost of production.
Cecilia Pryce, Openfield
Following the sharp correction which saw the Feb-20 Euronext rapeseed contract falling last week to its lowest level since mid-August on sunflower harvest pressure in the Black Sea and chart consideration, the European oilseed market bounced back, posting a seven-session winning streak.
Crushing levels of rapeseed in Europe remain high despite the losses seen to the EU crop this season, which has dropped to a 14-year low and has left a gap in supplies that until now has been filled by Ukraine and Canada.
According to the most recent data from the European Commission, a record 2.6 million tonnes had already been imported as of the end of last week of which more than 80% was from Ukraine. The Black Sea country has exported at a strong pace as exporters rush to take advantage of VAT loopholes, leaving less for the remainder of the season.
Vegetable oils are also in short supply more widely, reducing the ability of commodities such as palm oil, which reached yesterday [October 30] a fresh 18-month high in Malaysia to replace the losses in global rapeseed production, not only limited by crush capacity but also by the supply shortage emerging.
Soya bean prices continued lower for a third consecutive week despite significant delays in the US soy harvest which was only 62% complete as of October 27 compared with 69% last year and 78% on average. However, the impacts of the African Swine Fever virus, which continues to spread across Asia, and the Canada/ China trade war are curbing demand.
Ben Bodart, CRM AgriCommodities