Important updates and advice regarding coronavirus (Covid-19)

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.

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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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Market report - 13th May 2020

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Weather in the Northern Hemisphere continues to underpin grain prices, particularly ongoing dryness in some of Europe's key wheat-producing regions. Much of Northern Europe, the Baltics and Southern Russia have seen very little rainfall with the latter receiving just 5-20mm this week, so crops are continually being stressed. Consultancy, SovEcon, said on Friday that despite some recent rain, the extended drought period left irreversible damage to some crops which will result in lower output.

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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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The value of a sound crop protection program

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​Over the past decade, we have seen many new fungicide actives tested and have also lost many others from the store as they are revoked.​

As growers start to look closely at fungicide programs for their winter wheat crops, it is interesting to look into the yield trends generated in Frontier's 3D Thinking trials to see where the contribution to overall yield will come from during the growing season.

The 3D Thinking program has always studied fungicides, their effect on yield and how to maximise the value gained from them.

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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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Market report - 16th April 2020

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With the Covid-19 pandemic still impacting trade around the world, grain prices remain volatile. The Frontier pools are the ideal vehicle to help growers manage their risk and, with spring drilling completed by many in good time following the dry weather, now is a sensible time to consider available end markets for your growing crop. This is especially true for spring barley; with a record crop looking likely this season.

The pools are set to close Friday 17th April. Read on for the latest market developments and for help with committing a proportion of your 2020 crop.

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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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Market report - 8th April 2020

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European markets have steadied this week following a period of considerable price volatility seen last month.

Futures rallied €20 to 18-month highs in March as, amidst the pandemic, panic-buying gripped consumer markets and shoppers cleared supermarket shelves of bread, pasta and fresh meat. However, supply chains responded to the challenge and with supermarkets now restocked, demand has eased and markets are looking at their basic fundamentals for new direction.

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Ensure T1 sprays hit the target

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Disease control this season could be more challenging than normal, given the range of crops that are in the ground. We have everything from early-September-sown crops to varieties such as Skyfall which were still being drilled in early-March. 

Variety and drilling date can have a significant impact on the speed at which a crop develops; in particular the time taken to reach BBCH 31.

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Frontrunner - 3rd April 2020

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We're working hard to ensure we comply with all Government guidance and continue to deliver good service to our customers. This week we published three updates on our website to provide information related to Covid-19 for customers and suppliers, including updates on social distancing and customer service, additional information on payments, invoicing and administration, and information for third party hauliers. 

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Market report - 2nd April 2020

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Since last week's global rally, UK futures and physical prices have shed around £8/t due to a downturn in domestic demand and strengthening sterling. Consumers in all sectors continue to weigh up the impact of Covid-19 on their businesses but, with sterling firming and old crop becoming too expensive to export, it feels as though time is on their side.

Supermarket demand for bread, meat and eggs is supporting wheat inclusion for feed compounders around the UK, but industrial flour usage demand has crashed as the public no longer require pre-packed flour based products. 

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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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Market report - 18th March 2020

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​Currently, the underlying issue for the market is nervousness around global trade execution due to Covid-19. Buyers are still out there (Tunisia and Algeria for example), but usual offers are down in volume by circa 50%.

The kill rate in the broiler (chicken meat) market has increased drastically on the back of shoppers panic buying. The same is also now true of bread; supermarket shelves are empty and the demand for wheat is significantly higher than first forecast. However, this could be the short-term picture. Due to so many individuals stockpiling products, and with the hospitality and leisure industry likely to be heavily impacted by the recent government advice around social distancing, medium-term demand for meat and cereals could be much lower.

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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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Market report - 4th March 2020

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Wheat markets have rallied this week, bouncing back from the sell-off that we saw last week as a result of the coronavirus.

London wheat futures recovered £4 per tonne from Friday's low point, also encouraged higher by sterling weakness versus the euro. A settled UK weather outlook is encouraging for potential spring plantings but winter drilling is now done. Unfortunately, the prospect of a 2020 wheat crop that is little more than half the size of the 2019 crop is a concerning likelihood. 

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