Grain being loaded into a trailer©FLPA/Rex

Grain futures markets fell this week, after badly needed rain boosted the prospects of the US wheat crop.

UK May and November feed wheat futures lost about £5/t in the week, with May 2015 at £115.45/t by late afternoon on Friday (17 April) and November 2015 at £125.50/t.

However, ex-farm spot feed wheat prices were in a wide range from £111-£120/t, reflecting local demand. The highest prices were in Vivergo’s Hull bioethanol plant catchment area.

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Slow farmer selling and a strong sterling against the euro means UK exporters still face a challenging market. However, February’s UK wheat export tonnage of 267,000t was a three-year monthly high, boosted by higher levels of non-EU trade.  

The UK oilseed rape market had seen decent volumes come forward from farm as target levels around £260/t ex-farm were hit, however the UK market remains overpriced compared with Europe, said Gleadell’s trading director Jonathan Lane.

“Early in the week we saw crusher demand for spot positions and they were able to buy good volumes. We feel farmers should consider locking out old crop around these levels as ex-farm prices have gained about £50/t since the harvest lows.

“The majority of the move may well be over. New crop remains quiet in the UK with a lack of sellers in the trade or on farm and crushers currently reluctant to buy.”

On new crop wheat, Strategie Grains forecast this year’s UK crop at 15.1m tonnes compared with 16.6m tonnes in 2014, and put the EU soft wheat crop at 141.5m tonnes, which would be 1.1m tonnes higher than last year.

The Russian government will announce late in the season whether the country’s export tax will be extended to new crop, while Ukraine’s 2015 wheat production could fall by more than 4m tonnes compared with 2014, to 20m tonnes

After a dry winter in the US, only 42% of the winter wheat crop was rated good to excellent, said senior HCGA analyst Brenda Mullen. The recent rainfall should help, which had knocked Chicago wheat futures sharply, but there were also concerns over dry weather in Northern Europe.

There was also now a 70% risk of an El Niño weather phenomenon this year, she added.

“The bottom line is if El Niño weather [typically drought] develops, it could impact palm oil and Australian crop production, and thus, potentially add some support to both grain and oilseed prices,” said Ms Mullen.