Rapeseed growers are reluctant sellers in a market that looks set to be less well supplied than last year, with reduced production in some European countries cancelling out at least some of the seed carried over. But imports of finished biodiesel or oil for processing could change the supply/demand outlook. Prices have been dampened by improved weather for the US soybean crop which has triggered falls in Chicago futures.

“Growers have committed new crop wheat, they have committed barley, and they’ve committed everything else but they haven’t committed very much of their rape crop at the moment,” Stuart Attridge, trader at Harlow Agricultural Merchants, told Agritrade news. Crops looked reasonable in the UK. “You’ve got, without a shadow of a doubt, a carryover in Europe,” he continued, after all the imported seed, including Australian crop, which came into the Community last year.”

Estimates varied between a million and a million and a half tonnes of carryover into the 2018/19 marketing year, which threatens to overhang the new crop market. But, on the positive side, Mr Attridge continued, Scandinavia, parts of Northern Germany, and part of Poland look set to produce a much, much smaller crop. “They could be a good half a million tonnes down, if not more,” he noted.

“We usually do carry a million odd tonnes plus through in the Community anyway,” he went on. “So we’re back to some sort of normality – who knows?

“The million dollar question is what are the implications of the reduced duties on finished biofuels coming into the Community,” he added. “The German and French crushing plants that have been on reduced hours, with a number of them being shut down because of the competition from imported finished product, could be a problem.”

Mr Attridge noted that French farmers were blocking some oil plants in protest at imports of palm oil. Members of the French farmers union FNSEA blockaded installations belonging to the Total oil company from Monday, after it got permission to import palm oil to manufacture biodiesel. By Wednesday, the union had announced plans to suspend its blockade, following undertakings received from the French government – but it emphasised that blockades would start again if the government went back on its word.

“There’s a lot of material that’s got to change hands,” Mr Attridge concluded. “The buyers need crop to crush while the sellers have got to sell it somewhere.”

AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds reported that the industry journal Oilworld has cut its forecast for EU-28 2018/19 rapeseed production, “following adverse growing conditions in Germany, Poland and the Baltics.” Its current estimate puts EU rapeseed production at 21.2 million tonnes, down 0.6m tonnes on the previous year and 0.5m tonnes lower than its previous figure. AHDB also pointed out that grain trade group Coceral had put rapeseed production at 21.0m tonnes, down by 1.0m on the estimate it produced in March.