Chances rise of record UK wheat yield

The UK wheat harvest raised its chances of setting a yield record as it passed the half-way mark, with concerns over protein levels easing a touch too, boosting the chance of a strong revival in exports.

Crop consultancy Adas raised to 8.2-8.5 tonnes per hectare, from 8.0-8.2 tonnes per hectare, its estimate of the average UK wheat yield after a week in which growers put one-quarter of the crop in the barn, taking harvest progress to 55%.

The yield forecast leaves the UK, the European Union's third-ranked wheat producer, with a good chance of at least matching its current yield record, of 8.3 tonnes per hectare, set in 2008, and easily topping last year's 7.7-tonnes-per-hectare result.

With UK farmers having planted some 2m hectares of wheat, the country looks ever-more-certain to come in with harvest well above 16m tonnes, as forecast by INTL FCStone last week.

The US Department of Agriculture pegged the crop at 15.4m tonnes, with the International Grains Council foreseeing a 15.5m-tonne harvest.

'Quality good'

"Wheat yields are now available for all regions and crops continue to perform well above the farm average," Adas said.

"Wheat crops established well, early in the season, and had good plant numbers going into winter.  Both light and heavy land has performed well this season."

Furthermore, the consultancy added that "quality to date is good" too, with the return of wetter conditions in the last two weeks appearing not have impaired its charachter.

The crop's bushel weight, at 76 kilogrammes per hectolitre, and Hagberg falling numbers, at an average of 291 seconds, are "remaining high" even as harvest proceeds onto fields planted with lower-quality, bigger-yielding feed varieties, with higher-value milling wheat reaped first.

Indeed, Adas raised to "good" from "low" its rating of the crop's overall protein result, even while restating that levels in milling wheat are "lower than ideal".

Milling vs feed

The protein level is viewed as particularly important this year, as it will be a key determinant of how much UK wheat will be able, with its otherwise strong specifications, to fill in the void in quality wheat from countries such as France where harvest time rains turned much milling grain into feed.

Traders at a major European commodities house said that the UK should produce a "small surplus", beyond domestic needs, of high grade milling wheat "as a blend with some hard feed wheat" to meet the needs of North African buyers denied their usual French supplies.

However, the UK nonetheless looks like being left with large amounts of feed wheat which, against a background of a poor quality continental European harvest and prospects for a huge US corn crop, will suffer a large discount to milling grain.

"There will not be anything like enough milling wheat available to blend up all the surplus feed wheat," the traders said.

"It might be possible to put together 1m tonnes or even slightly more of milling wheat shipments. But the rest of what looks to be a surplus of over 3m tonnes will have to be sold as basic feed and that's going to be painful."

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