Important updates and advice regarding coronavirus (Covid-19)

Frontrunner - 31st July 2020

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Last Friday, global markets saw a considerable lift following reports of significant export sales to China from the US for corn and soybeans. On Monday, however, this lift was wiped out on the back of increased Russian wheat crop estimates and less than expected US wheat shipments. The Institute of Agricultural Market Studies (IKAR) increased its Russian wheat production estimate to 78 million tonnes. This is up from 76.5 million tonnes previously and comes as a result of the higher yields being seen in the Black Earth region, which are moving the average closer to that of last year due to the increased area drilled.

You can also listen to the Frontrunner podcast - press play to hear the latest report.

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Frontrunner - 24th July 2020

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Early UK wheat harvest results suggest huge variability in terms of yield and quality, with wide-ranging proteins grabbing the headlines thus far and testing generally lower than at this stage last year. The Hagberg falling numbers and specific weights reported also reflect a less-than-ideal growing season and, with a mixed short-term weather forecast, this may continue to be the case. Elsewhere, FranceAgriMer estimates 57% of soft wheat to be in 'good' to 'excellent' condition. This is a 2% improvement on last week, bringing the harvest to 71% completion.

You can also listen to Frontrunner - press play to hear the latest report on Acast. This week's report is read by farm trader, Ollie Wilson.

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Frontrunner - 17th July 2020

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This week has seen volatile trading on US Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) wheat futures caused by rumours of US wheat sales to China along with further cuts to wheat crop estimates for some of the major producers.

CBOT wheat futures hit contract lows ahead of the Stocks and Acreage Report from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) which was published on the 30th June. However, an unexpected cut of 600,000 acres in the planted wheat area, and therefore the lowest US wheat area since records began, triggered a positive turn for the market.

You can also listen to Frontrunner - press play to hear the latest report on SoundCloud.

This week's report is read by farm trader, Lottie Bauer.

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Frontrunner - 10th July 2020

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Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) wheat futures prices rallied by more than 6% this week as speculative funds bought heavily, covering large parts of their short positions. This surge in buying was triggered by reports of poor early harvest wheat yields in France and the Black Sea region. Buying was also triggered by a string of revised wheat crop production estimates that has seen output lowered for some of the world's primary wheat exporters.

You can also listen to Frontrunner - press play to hear the latest report on SoundCloud.

This week, the report is read by farm trader, Sophie Cath.

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Frontrunner - 3rd July 2020

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The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) surprised markets at the end of March 2020 when it published its US quarterly stocks and acreage report. It estimated that US farmers would significantly expand their corn planted area. The estimate predicted the planted corn area would be 7.3 million acres greater than last year, when prolonged rainfall kept farmers out of the fields.

You can also listen to Frontrunner - press play to hear the latest report on SoundCloud. 

This week, the report is read by Group Commercial Strategy Director, Andrew Flux.

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P and K blog series: Managing levels after extreme weather events

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We've certainly seen Mother Nature go from one extreme to the next in recent months. Given the incredibly dry April and May experienced this spring, it is difficult to comprehend that February was actually the wettest on record. Let us not forget that this also followed the consistently above-average rainfall throughout autumn and winter too.

However, a generally kind March and early April allowed for some substantial spring cropping. While somewhat of a forced change for many, this - coupled with the extremes in weather - has significantly impacted the nutrition requirements for this and potentially next year's crops.

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Frontrunner - 26th June 2020

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Wheat markets continued to fall this week, continuing the trend that coincided with the beginning of June. Improving production prospects for US wheat and corn crops are the main cause for this negativity as Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) wheat futures fell to within a cent of contract lows set early last September. US CBOT corn futures slipped almost 6% lower during the week.

You can also listen to Frontrunner - press play to hear the latest report on SoundCloud.

This week, the report is read by farm trader, Ron Burnside.

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P and K blog series: The building blocks of overall plant health

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Phosphorus and potassium are vital for photosynthesis and water regulation – but how much of them do you need to guarantee healthy plants?

Precision technology can play an important role when it comes to successful nutrient management. With P and K in particular, there is a considerable benefit to carrying out nutrient mapping and variable rate applications of fertiliser in that you are able to individually deal with field areas that are both below, at and above the critical level. 

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Frontrunner - 19th June 2020

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Improving US harvest prospects saw Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) wheat futures come under increasing pressure this week, losing almost 4% of their value and falling to levels not seen since early September last year. The US wheat harvest is advancing rapidly, with 15% completed according to the most recent crop progress report from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which was published on Monday evening. This figure compares to 7% at this time last year...

You can also listen to Frontrunner - press play to hear the latest report on SoundCloud.

The report is read this week by farm trader, Luke Cox.

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Frontrunner - 12th June 2020

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Beneficial rain across most of Europe, as well as improving wheat and corn production prospects in the US, weighed on wheat markets early this week. Expectations for a bumper US corn crop in the 2020/21 season grew higher as US farmers advanced their planting to 97% completion. This is ahead of the five-year average of 94% and would suggest that drilling the increased 7.3 million acres projected by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is highly likely...

You can also listen to Frontrunner - press play to hear the latest report on SoundCloud.

The report is read this week by Commercial Manager, Richard Johnston.

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Frontrunner - 5th June 2020

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Rain arriving in the UK, northern Europe and Black Sea countries has been viewed as beneficial for the drought-stricken wheat crops in these regions, triggering a wave of selling on wheat futures markets earlier this week.

UK prices suffered particularly, losing as much as 40% of the gains they made during May. Values were not helped by the 1% gain of sterling against the euro. However, there was a notable turnaround on Thursday, led by wheat futures from the US Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), which rallied to a six-week high... 

You can also listen to Frontrunner - press play to hear the latest report on SoundCloud.

This week's report is read by Barley Trader, Westly Garner.

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Frontrunner - 29th May 2020

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Damaging heat and prolonged dry weather coupled with a fall in the value of sterling versus the euro have driven wheat prices higher again this week. Since the beginning of May, London 2020 wheat futures have gained almost £15/t. This is a particularly impressive performance when compared to French wheat futures, which, over the same period, have increased by little more than €3. Unfortunately, not all farmers will benefit from this. The prolonged wet drilling conditions throughout the autumn and winter period prevented planting in vast areas of the country and will result in the smallest UK wheat crop since the 1970s.

You can also listen to Frontrunner - press play to hear the latest report on SoundCloud.

Read this week by Farm Trader, Luke Cox.

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Frontrunner - 22nd May 2020

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World wheat markets had a poor start to the week as traders digested the bearish United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) World Supply and Demand report published last Tuesday. The report signalled ample grain supplies for the coming season and US wheat futures fell to lows not seen since last September. However, prolonged dry weather is adversely affecting the wheat production prospects for some of the primary producers across the Northern Hemisphere and leading officials and analysts to lower their crop estimates. This triggered a wave of buying mid-week and wheat futures rallied sharply.

You can also listen to Frontrunner - press play to hear the latest report on SoundCloud.

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Milling wheat - final decisions

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As I write this, glancing out of the window to look at blue skies over dry soil, it's all too easy to forget the extremely wet autumn and winter we all endured. Clearly, this posed a massive challenge for establishing autumn crops and has led to one of the smallest winter wheat areas we've seen for decades. 

It did, though, also cause large amounts of mobile nutrients like nitrogen and sulphur to be leached out of the soil, meaning we started spring growth with very low levels naturally available. Indeed...

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Frontrunner - 15th May 2020

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This week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published its World Supply and Demand Estimates for May, which included its first look at the 2020/21 season. An increase in supply exceeding demand is anticipated, which will lead to increased year-end stocks for both wheat and corn. 

Corn production in the US - the world's largest producer - is predicted to jump significantly. By the end of last week, US farmers had drilled over two-thirds of the planned corn area. The area planted is expected to increase by over seven million acres on last year and yields should increase by over 6%.

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Frontrunner - 7th May 2020

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Following a period of beneficial rain for much of the UK, northern Europe and countries in the Black Sea region, world wheat markets continued to fall earlier this week. London wheat futures lost all gains made during March and April as wheat crop production worries reduced. Improved supply prospects weighed on prices as well as freshly published estimates for reduced demand due to the impact of coronavirus. The latest EU balance sheet from Brussels cut approximately two million tonnes each from both feed and non-feed demand.

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Frontrunner - 1st May 2020

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Prolonged dryness has been adversely affecting wheat crops in the UK, northern Europe and the Black Sea region. This has helped support world wheat prices in recent weeks. This week, however, saw a change to weather patterns as low pressure systems sweeping in from the west brought much needed rain and relief to stressed winter and spring wheat fields. Confidence that notable yield losses may have been avoided triggered a wave of selling on futures markets. Buyers stood aside and prices dropped to eight-week lows. It remains to be seen how beneficial this rain has been.

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Frontrunner - 24th April 2020

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Wheat markets rallied sharply earlier this week, recovering much of the previous week's losses. Attention turned away from loss of demand due to the impact of Covid-19 to problems with supply, especially in the ethanol sector.

The Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation stated that grain exports would cease once the seven-million-tonne quota they set for the last quarter of the season was reached. It is thought that 3.5 million tonnes of that has already been shipped. Over one million tonnes is being loaded at Russian ports each week, meaning the quota will be surpassed early May.

The Ukraine is also close to meeting its wheat export quota of 20.2 million tonnes, having now shipped 18.5 million tonnes. It is also reported to be considering limiting corn exports to 29.3 million tonnes while the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has targeted 32 million tonnes.

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Frontrunner - 17th April 2020

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Prolonged dry weather in parts of Europe, Russia and Ukraine has resulted in dry soils that are well below average. This has been a strong supporting factor for wheat markets in recent weeks. However, rain arriving in the western side of Europe, as well as Russia and eastern Ukraine, has eased concerns for crop development in those regions. Meanwhile, analysts have been assessing the impact of coronavirus on wheat demand in the milling, animal feed and ethanol sectors and have adjusted their balance sheets accordingly. Last Thursday afternoon, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) cut both world wheat and corn use by approximately five million tonnes each. This raised year-end stocks for each commodity by the same value. European analyst Stratégie Grains published its EU balance sheet this week, cutting two million tonnes from last month's estimate of EU wheat use this season and almost three million tonnes for the 2020/21 season.

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Frontrunner - 9th April 2020

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The UK wheat market has been less volatile than it was last month, making small gains and recovering some of last week's losses. French wheat futures rallied €6 to highs not seen since August 2018. This has been encouraged by the fast EU export pace, which reached almost 25 million tonnes – 67% up on last year and closing in on the season's target of 31 million tonnes. France had its biggest March soft wheat export programme to countries outside of the EU for ten years, despite the logistical challenges brought by the coronavirus. UK wheat prices were capped by firmer sterling and the weight of the old crop surplus that is unlikely to be shipped and will need to carry into next season. New crop prices are supported by the continuing dry spell and increasing temperatures, not just in the UK but across western Europe and extending into eastern Germany and Poland. Crops will become increasingly stressed without rain.

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