Grain prices firm but more exports are needed

UK grain prices firmed slightly to midweek, with ex-farm feed wheat worth up to £2/t more than at the same point last week.

The regional spread narrowed to put spot prices at £116-121/t ex-farm. Barley values were in a bigger range, at £104-119/t, depending on region.  

While there is still a big volume to shift, UK wheat exports reached almost 938,000t by the end of 2014, with 225,000t of this going out in December.

More than 30% of exports went to non-EU destinations, the highest proportion of July to December wheat exports outside the EU for almost 20 years.

However, the volume shipped by the end of 2014 represents only one-third of the UK’s exportable surplus. Wheat imports just outweighed export volumes to that date.

While issues such as the future of Greece’s membership in the eurozone are making currency markets nervous, the pound continues at close to a seven-year high against the euro.

This has made exports to eurozone countries difficult, but the strong US dollar has allowed greater access to less-common destinations for UK grain, including Thailand, Japan and the US.

Some eurozone countries have also exported more to non-EU countries. Lower oil prices have brought down shipping costs and EU exports are forecast by analyst Strategie Grains at a record 32.5m tonnes.

Nevertheless, the HGCA and grain traders warned that UK prices may have to discount further to stimulate sufficient export demand.

UK maize imports so far this season, at 938,308t, match our wheat exports and are high, but lower than to the same date a year ago, when they stood at 1.345m tonnes.