Wheat prices slide in ‘cut throat’ market

Wheat prices have dropped by about £5/t over the past week, knocked by promising yields across Europe and aggressive exporting from Black Sea countries.

Ex-farm values for harvest movement weakened to about £115/t, depending on region, with no premium available for early-cut crops. “There is a lot of old crop being carried over,” said Mike Fowler of Grainfarmers. Consumers had also bought their harvest requirements earlier in the season.

Traders were forecasting about a 3m tonne exportable surplus in the UK, which would have to compete against Black Sea supplies. Good quality was, therefore, essential to try to support prices throughout the season by selling milling wheat instead of basic feed.

“We are reasonably competitive on exports, but Ukraine and Russia are undercutting us,” said Mr Fowler. “Their yields have been very good as well. We would need to drop another £5/t to be competitive on feed wheat, but if we do that they could go down £6/t – it’s a cut-throat market.”

Early sample results indicated good quality wheat with high bushelweight and Hagbergs, but mixed protein contents. With malting barley results showing low nitrogen contents, the implication was that wheat could suffer from low protein as well, said Mr Fowler. “Winter barley yields have been very good, which could also impact on the wheat market.”

Oilseed rape markets improved slightly over the past week, recovering from their steep £40/t drop last week. “Prices have been all over the place,” said Alan Macaulay of Frontier. “I think it just got a bit overdone after crude oil dropped – and there’s been a bit of disappointment over yields. There is still underlying demand out there.”

Ex-farm values were now trading at about £295/t for August, depending on location, with a strong price increment into both September and October to encourage farmers to store their seed for longer.