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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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 - 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 - 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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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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Frontrunner - 27th March 2020

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Frontier's number one priority will always be the health and safety of our colleagues, customers and those with whom we have contact during our normal business operations. We are actively and continuously monitoring the situation and basing our actions on the very latest advice from the Government. These actions currently include a range of measures such as minimising the number of people at our sites, colleagues working from home where possible, implementing social distancing measures and self-isolating when necessary. We have also implemented service contingency plans in order that we can continue to deliver a service which is 'business as usual', albeit with some changes to the way we operate. Read the full statement from Mark Aitchison, Frontier's Managing Director, here.
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Frontrunner - 20th March 2020

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The impact of coronavirus continues to be the primary driver for financial and commodity markets. World wheat prices saw significant volatility this week, driven by exaggerated moves in foreign exchange rates and high nearby consumer demand. The Bank of England cut UK interests rates to a record low of just 0.1% and, with the British government introducing other financially supportive measures for the UK economy, sterling fell by 6.5% versus the euro. As a result, London wheat futures rallied to new contract highs for November 2020 and, from the lowest to the highest, achieved a spread in prices of £12/t. The euro also fell versus the US dollar, adding value to European wheat prices. Demand for bread products increased as panic buying cleared supermarket shelves, brought millers back to the market, and added weight to the increase in old crop wheat prices.

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Frontrunner - 13th March 2020

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The impact of coronavirus on global economies has been the overwhelming factor driving wheat prices this week. The widespread panic-selling seen in stocks and shares and crude oil spilled into all commodities, pushing world wheat prices down. 

US wheat futures fell to lows not seen since last September and their losses since mid-January rose to 15%. However, the impact of this on UK wheat futures was reduced as sterling lost ground to the euro following the Bank of England base rate cut of 0.5%.

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Frontrunner - 6th March 2020

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Despite the increasing spread of coronavirus and concerns surrounding its potential impact on demand, world wheat markets have managed to tread water this week with overall minimal change. International trade does not appear to have been affected yet, with importing countries such as Tunisia, Korea and Thailand continuing to make wheat purchases.

​Although Friday morning saw price volatility, US wheat futures were trading within one cent of last week's closing prices. Concerns may be greater for supply rather than demand. Furthermore, a Chinese government working group stated that farmers must not let grain output decline this year despite coronavirus ensuring food security.

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Frontrunner - 28th February 2020

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The spread of the coronavirus has triggered record-breaking falls in stock market values this week, with crude oil losing a quarter of its value since the beginning of 2020. This negativity has inevitably spilled into grain markets and world wheat prices have dropped 6% since last Friday's close. 

There are concerns over the impact the virus could have on supply chains and demand, although international trade appears to be continuing as normal at present. Futures markets are oversold but, should the virus continue to spread, it seems likely that global wheat prices will continue to come under pressure.

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Frontrunner - 21st February 2020

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Farmers in Russia have enjoyed the opposite of the dire weather conditions endured by UK farmers. Prolonged settled weather during the autumn and a mild winter allowed Russian farmers to exceed their winter wheat planting expectations and there are limited signs of any damaging winter kill. 

Various analysts are now suggesting that the Russian 2020 wheat harvest will be the second highest on record. Estimates range from 75-85 million tonnes with the record being harvested in 2017 at 85 million tonnes. 

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Frontrunner - 14th February 2020

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US wheat futures markets eased again this week, dropping to price levels not seen since December.This drew Black Sea and European markets lower too. There is still no evidence of any US wheat export business to China following the signing in mid-January of 'phase one' of the China/US trade deal, and US wheat is not competing for business in other markets such as North Africa.

This week, Egypt held a tender for wheat to be supplied during April. They bought 180,000 tonnes from both Russia and Romania at prices that, on average, were $6/t below their previous tender from France two weeks ago.

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Frontrunner - 7th February 2020

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World wheat markets have managed to achieve modest gains this week, supported by ongoing strong international export trade but lacking any fresh price drivers. Futures remain a good 4% below their January highs. China remains a primary focus, with the combination of their wheat buying activity, the coronavirus outbreak and their trade deal with the US creating a recipe of uncertainty.

Following the signing of 'phase one' of the US/China trade deal, US traders expected to see a wave of wheat buying activity as China began their obligation to purchase US agricultural products. 

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