Soft wheat quality fears on rise as rain threatens

Concerns are rising over the quality of the UK’s soft wheat crop after heavy rains halted combining across the country this week.

About 50% of the area was still standing midweek.

With an unsettled weather outlook, cutting could be delayed further, which might affect export potential.

Despite having an early start to the export season, with the first shipments of feed wheat sent to Spain this week, grain merchant Gleadell expressed fears for the wheat yet to be cut.

“Some early cargoes are being done at the moment, but we will have to see what the quality is before we go any further,” said trader Chris Spratt.

“People are just waiting to see how the crop has been affected after the rain.”

Simon Ingle, Grainfarmers’ head of milling wheat, said soft wheat was the mainstay for British exports.

“We need to get it in the barn over the next week or so or it could deteriorate and fail to meet minimum export standards.”

David Doyle, Grainfarmers’ head of wheat, said the lull in combining due to the wet weather meant trading had slackened.

“It’s a case of waiting and seeing how the final position unfolds before we know how much we have to market and what export demand is,” he said.

Mr Doyle said prices were pretty stable.

Ex-farm feed wheat was priced at £75-£77/t for November, a figure “worth considering”.

“Until the recent rains, milling premiums were under pressure, but now these are also on hold after a recent rally to about £8-£14/t, depending upon specification and region.”

Independent grain trader Robert Kerr said Group 1 varieties Malacca and Hereward were trading at about £10/t over feed, slightly more for October and November.

Solstice was £2-3/t below that.

But he said soft wheat prices were vulnerable.

“Whatever happens now the quality cannot improve, but it could easily deteriorate if the weather continues to be wet.

“The weather forecast is unsettled over the next few days, especially in the east, where most of the wheat is still in the ground.”

Mr Kerr said spot ex-farm prices for feed wheat were about £70/t, £6 below October-December levels.

“The market is stuck in a £1-£2 band at the moment and it is likely to remain in that range for the next couple of weeks,” he added.