Wheat area in the UK is to rebound from a 32-year low to within an ace of a record high, boosted by favourable autumn planting weather – in stark contrast to a year ago.
Strategie Grains, in its first estimate for UK cereals sowings for the 2014 harvest, pegged area at 2.02m hectares.
The figure, some 60,000 hectares from the record high recorded by the 2000 crop, represents a 24% rebound from the 1.63m hectares recorded for this year's harvest which was the lowest since 1981, and reflected dismally wet autumn sowing conditions.
The great majority of UK wheat is autumn sown.
This year, by contrast, planting conditions have been viewed as generally, highly favourable, with plenty of dry spells, interrupted by sufficient rains to maintain soil moisture levels.
Large wheat harvest ahead?
"It has been a good, open planting season. This figure does not surprise me at all," a UK trader told Agrimoney.com.
"The UK could be looking at a very large wheat harvest next year."
The last harvest on more than 2.0m hectares, in 2008, produced the record crop of 17.3m hectares, beating the previous high of 16.7m tonnes reached in 2000.
The extra wheat area will come at the expense of spring crops, which proved popular in 2012-13 because of the expanses left unplanted thanks to the sodden autumn.
Strategie Grains forecast barley area tumbling 22% to a four-year low of 949,000 hectares, with oats sowings down 30% at 123,000 hectares.
Wheat's appeal, besides the opportunity to plant offered by the benign weather, also reflects profit potential, with traders at a major European commodities house flagging the "attractiveness of wheat gross margins compared to barley".
Indeed, at Gleadell, the grain merchant, trading manager Jonathan Lane highlighted the importance to the UK wheat price outlook of influences from abroad, from the likes of Australia, Ukraine and the US, rather than the domestic result.
"The UK represents about 1.7% of world wheat production," Mr Lane said.
"Whether we have 1.5m hectares planted or 2.5m hectares planted area it does not make much difference to prices in the UK, which are determined by the global market."