Grain being loaded into trailer©Cultura Rex

UK grain prices drifted lower in the first half of this week, putting ex-farm feed wheat prices at £113-£120/t.

The premium for top-spec breadmaking wheat remains at £35/t-plus, while barley prices are trailing wheat by an average £4/t, although in a range from £101-£113/t.

EU wheat export licences have reached their third-highest-ever volume as a weak euro against the US dollar continues to boost sales outside the union.

Grain export licences granted by the EU Commission to the end of March reached 25.5m tonnes and, if the pace is maintained, new crop prices could strengthen as the carry­over tonnage dwindles.

However, new crop has lost about £3.50/t in the past two weeks, putting the November 2015 feed wheat futures contract at £130.50/t by mid-afternoon on Wednesday (8 April).

Better conditions in Ukraine and Russia have improved the 2015 crop outlook there, while the US winter wheat crop has come out of dormancy in poorer condition than when it entered.

Barley demand may be on the rise as China develops a taste for the grain, which it first imported as a feed grain in 2014. It is competing with high-priced home-produced maize, and Chinese barley imports could grow to about 6m tonnes this season, with most of this coming from Australia and France.