July collected the accolade of being the wettest on record for Northern Ireland, leading to a difficult start for the local harvest.   Eager for a sustained break in the weather, farmers will be hoping that the remainder of the St Swithin’s day prophecy does not come true, allowing for some much-needed field work to get underway.

Elsewhere, weather patterns have been creating challenging crop conditions.  Parts of western, central and northern Europe witnessed persistently higher temperatures and drier than usual conditions, while a rainfall surplus in parts of Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary delayed harvesting with a potential knock-on effect on grain quality.  There are some concerns regarding the quality of milling wheat in particular.  Despite the extreme weather conditions across various regions, the European Union’s Monitoring Agricultural Resources unit suggests that the yield forecast for most crops remains at or slightly above the 5-year average.  Fresh news of rain and cooler weather conditions in the United States is also lending confidence to grain stocks.

Meanwhile, the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues to cause fluctuations in the market.  On 17th July Russia announced that it would no longer participate in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which had allowed Ukraine to export grain through the Black Sea ports.  Since then, Russia has stepped up an offensive on Ukrainian ports and key infrastructure, turning its attention most recently to the Danube ports of Reni and Izmail, thus interfering with Ukrainian efforts to find alternative transport routes for grain via the Danube to the Romanian port of Constanta.  Some of the Baltic countries, Croatia, Greece, and Bulgaria have offered their ports to export Ukrainian grains and oilseeds.  However, these alternative routes remain challenging due to the costs and logistics of transport via road, rail or the Danube, as well as the ability to cope with the additional capacity needed to enable the flow of Ukrainian grain to the global market.  Whilst there are currently no concerns regarding supply for the NI animal feed market, volatility remains with the market trading news headlines on a daily basis.

The conflict is also continuing to affect the fertiliser market with the curtailment of UK and European ammonia production, a key component of fertiliser manufacture, due to gas prices and lack of Russian ammonia.  Alternative sources of ammonia are being sought to allow fertiliser manufacture to continue but are still dependent on the gas market.  As such, temperatures this winter could be part of the driving force behind next year’s fertiliser market.