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Weekly Commodity Report 8th April 2019

Currency remains relatively range bound at around $1.3 to £1, despite volatile trading on individual days - this is considered a response to no firm news on Brexit!

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Both the UK and European markets are following the US market down, despite the belief that stocks are tight.  The May wheat futures ended the week at £162/T, while the November contract reached £146/T.  The price differential between the new and old crop price was maintained.  FranceAgriMer have rated the French soft wheat crop 84% good to excellent, down 1% in a week but above the 78% from a year ago.  This is despite concerns that a dry winter, with insufficient rain may already mean the crop is susceptible to damage from water stress.  For this reason Strategie Grains have reduced the French wheat production forecast by 50,000T. 

The US wheat market was driven downward yet again by the trade becoming impatient for the repeatedly promised trade deal that is yet to materialised.  The US trade announcement relied on a deal that is not definite and could take several weeks to appear.  A Chinese representative did confirm some progress, but issues such GMO grain approval and industry policy remain hard gaps to fill for China.  In the US, feed mills and ethanol plants in the Midwest have slowed production following recent floods, not just due to the loss of crops and livestock, but transportation issues as many roads still damaged.  Fuel prices have also surged 10-20 cents a gallon.  Only 1% of US land used for arable farming was affected by the recent flood.  US funds have continued to sell off cereals as the 1 billion tonne maize crop worldwide adds resistance to price rises in the immediate future.  The last USDA report places estimates for both maize stocks and planting as ahead of market expectations.  The Informa report estimated the world wheat crop up 35 Mln T on last year’s at 770 Mln T.  The difference is being seen as correction to the shortfall of the previous season, and not enough to limit the potential to meet increased demand and build new stocks.  Black sea wheat prices were firmer with higher quotes to Asia this week.

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The uncertainty for a trade deal between the US and China weighs on prices for the soya complex, along with some technical selling at the weekend.  The price dropped almost 1% on Friday’s trading alone.  In the middle of the week the soya bean complex showed some support to price as the US soya bean export figures  were above expectations at 1.97 Mln T which was mostly to China.  This may be short lived with fears continuing for China’s reduced soya bean imports following new cases of African Swine Virus.  Fears of a global economic shutdown continue with the market continuing to flex on each piece of news from better than expected US jobs report to rising trade tension.  It is expected that the 2018/19 soya bean production estimates for Argentina will increase but that the Brazilian figure will reduce in the imminent USDA report. 

As we move towards the warmer months insect control can become a hot topic not just on farm but if you are lucky enough to have a holiday planned somewhere where mosquitoes are found.  A kind team of insect researchers have found female mosquitoes listening to Skrillex had less sex, and sucked less blood than those left in silence.  Its hoped this could be an environmentally friendly alternative to insecticides as interrupting these key behaviours reduces the spread of diseases. 

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When groups of hungry female mosquitoes were housed with a hamster (for snacking) and a male mosquito it was found those played Skrillex were distracted by the vibrations and took on average 2-3 minutes after the song finished to start looking for food.  Those without the music took 30 seconds.  They also made fewer attempts to feed.

The research also found the aggressive vibrations of the music made it difficult for pairs of mosquitoes to synchronise their wings resulting in five times less sex than those in silence.

It is not the first time human noise has disrupted the normal behaviour of insects.  Beetles played AC/DC’s “Back in Black” ate less aphids.  We do not know if the insects are too busy enjoying the music for normal behaviour to be exhibited or if they just consider it noise pollution.

Depending on your taste in music (and that of your chickens) you might want to trial it yourself, so the track used in the study Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites is linked to the report.

You might find you leave the room before you see the results on any insects you have around – if you are not bitten does that count as a success?