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Weekly Commodity Report 27th September 2019

The Nov UK wheat futures moved sidewise this week until Friday, when it lifted, ending the week at £138/T, a rise of £2 over the week, hitting a 6-week high.


This was thought to be related to global markets firming as US weather concerns caused short covering.  The nearer the Brexit deadline, the more it adds pressure for UK grain prices to remain competitive on the export market.  The year’s production figures are relatively high, yet domestic demand is lower so the threat of quotas and tariffs on exports drives the market to beat the Brexit deadline and sell now.  Often in previous seasons the UK has found it difficult to maintain a price difference to EU wheat that allows prices to be competitive, bearing in mind that there is approximately £15/T of freight costs.  This season this competitive edge has been maintained since harvest, so export volumes leaving UK ports has been higher than has been seen for a number of years.  However, the EU is our biggest market and as there is still no clarity post Brexit, purchases post October are seen as `a risk’ for buyers.  The latest figures from the AHDB show 51.1kt of feed wheat were purchased in October, the largest since 2014, and only 9.8kt for November – December, below the 5-year average. 

The DEFRA figures for the planting survey align with the AHDB at 1.676 million acres and a large 16.9 Mln T crop.  Barley and oats have also seen large crops.  Sterling strength has increased throughout September from almost record lows.  Prices have had to ease to remain competitive.  Farm selling has been low, so that some UK shippers have had to buy French wheat to meet demand, perhaps leaving UK wheat on the shelf at a time when its opportunity to sell may be short. 


Wheat remains plentiful on the global market. Algeria remains the main destination for the exporters. Ukraine holds attention as its grain exports have doubled this year, breaking through the 13 Mln T mark. Conversely, Russia’s export figures are 9% down in the same period at 14.3 Mln T. US exports are also at a 6-year low as large harvests in Brazil and Ukraine are favoured on export markets. Tariff reductions in Morocco have encouraged further exports. The USDA made no big change to its wheat supply and demand balance sheet. The often seen, October price rise for US wheat seems to be happening as protein premiums have improved, fuelled by concerns for quality in Spring wheat. The US maize and soya harvest is running behind and production expected to be lower. Grain prices globally look rangebound with investors remaining uncertain as the geo-political stories remain the focus.

China and the United states held vice-ministerial level trade talks last week, giving a small boost to prices.  The 13th round of talks are scheduled for October in Washington, the trade is not yet ready to assume anything.  Further purchases by China of US agricultural products alongside concerns of rains in the Midwest lowering crop quality was however enough to support prices mid-week.  However, the trade returned to technical selling by the week’s finish.  With investors focused on the facts, rather than rumours in the grain market after the USDA report over the unknows of a long standing trade dispute. 

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In a Derbyshire Dales field Gavin Munro is growing trees to make furniture.  This might not sound special until we tell you that he is growing the furniture.  The concept is straight forward; do not cut down any trees and make furniture, when you can grow the tree in the shape of a mirror frame, a lamp, a chair or even table. 

The willow sprouts out of the ground where a few inches above the ground the trunk morphs into a chair back, seat and even legs.  A blue frame all covered in leaves is used to train the growing plant into a seamless chair made in one piece.  After 5-10 years the process is complete and the furniture can be cut down, dried out and used.

The inspiration for fully grown furniture are a bonsai tree and Gavin’s spinal condition, that was helped with surgery to train his back straight on a frame as a child.  Gavin hopes his slow grown, no waste and structurally sound furniture will take off.  So far, the first `crop’ of chairs are due to be harvested next year is sold out at £2,500 each.  Lamps and mirror frames pay the bills for now at £700 and £450 respectively. 

With plans for global scaling will we spot a chair or table `growing’ alongside your hens on their range any time soon? Full Grown Shop

Brought to you by Melanie Blake and Martin Humphrey