A month ago, I commented about how the rain had made the grain by relieving the early spring and summer drought, adding that it was now “ruining it again.”

I am sorry to say that was too prophetic! As you know only too well, we hardly had two back to back sunny combining days in August except for the last four days, when the damage had already been done.

As far as malting barley is concerned, in Hampshire and Wiltshire this is the worst harvest that I can remember. 2012 was bad enough with about 50% failing, but at least then we had lower nitrogens. This year most of the barley in these counties is over the maximum 1.85 nitrogen permitted for export or domestic malting.

But equally as bad are the high levels of pre germination (where the germ has already started to grow in the barley corn). Even if this pre germ is deemed viable still, it needs very careful drying at low temperatures to 13% and conditioning on a drying floor to keep it alive.

Not everyone has the facilities or expertise to do this, so we have been moving as much of the wet but still viable malting barley to our central stores to preserve it. Any potential malting above 14% moisture needs to be conditioned with cold air or it will lose its germination. Malting barley premiums are now very high: this realistically reflects the cost of replacing malting barley sold pre harvest which may need to be imported from Denmark.

Milling wheat is nearly as bad in Hampshire/Wiltshire with low hagberg and variable specific weight between 74/78 kilograms. Protein like the barley is tending to be too high – I know, you just cannot please some millers.

Kent has performed much better on quality as have other areas of the UK. So we think there should be enough milling wheat to go around in the UK. Derogation on hagberg will be needed to increase the selection rate. But it’s in everyone’s interest to do that because the cost of imported German wheat is high, and like their malting barley, the quality remains uncertain.

While we have all been so preoccupied with the local problems of salvaging quality in the South, Russia has been churning out a record cereals harvest. It looks to be at least 10% up on last year and still counting. This is one of the main reasons why UK wheat futures are now £13 off the market highs of mid July, but also some of the weather scares around American wheat and maize failed to materialise.

When it’s finished, the eventual size of the UK wheat crop – and surplus – could move this again. For now all we know is that some first wheats have performed well in yield if not quality terms, and second wheat has done badly. The truth is we just don’t know: it is ironic that a massive country like Russia is confidently predicting its crop size around 91 million tonnes whereas the UK still hasn’t much of a clue at this stage.

It should be noted that this large fall in UK wheat values has been against the background of very weak sterling. It was over 93 pence exchange rate to the euro today (29/08/17). This is most unusual because the UK doesn’t know what its exportable surplus is yet.This exchange rate, which would be very beneficial for UK exports to the European Union, is going under the radar.

I realise that this exchange rate has a lot to do with the support that is being given to the euro by the European Central Bank. That said sterling is really no better than it deserves to be with most financial indices from house prices to retail price index and inflation being adverse.

I still cannot see how the EU can continue to support the euro artificially: sooner or later it should weaken against sterling. Meantime so long as this rate continues throughout September, growers will receive a nice windfall compared to last year when the basic payment scheme is calculated. Feed barley needs to be watched, especially as so much malting barley has been downgraded. When wheat was higher the differential was wide. That has now narrowed to about £10, but that still leaves feed barley at £120 ex farm for the turn of the year, which might be as good as it gets now.

Lastly, while bemoaning our bad luck over harvest quality, we could be in a worse place, Texas for example. God seems to be very quick these days when dealing with retribution. I wonder what he has in mind for North Korea?