Good start to UK barley harvest, less so rapeseed

The UK harvest has begun well for winter barley, with reports of above-normal yields, but only started off an average footing for rapeseed, thus far defying expectations for a strong crop.

The first 50,000 hectares of crops combined, progress in line with the usual pace as of mid-July, is showing "better-than-average" yields, consultancy Adas said.

Yields, for which the 10-year average is 6.4 tonnes per hectare, have been particularly strong in the West Midlands, where they have come in at 7.6 tonnes per hectare so far overall, with some crops in Shropshire and Worcestershire yielding 9.6 tonnes per hectare.

In the South West, where the winter barley harvest is more than one-quarter finished, the yield has averaged 6.7 tonnes per hectare, with poorer results from lighter land dragging down the mean.

'Bit of a disappointment'

For rapeseed, the average yield has come in "close to" the long-term mean of 3.3 tonnes per hectare, with reports of results as high as 4.5 tonnes per hectare in the South East, Adas said.

The comments tally with market talk, with traders at one major European commodities house flagging earlier that "rapeseed yields seem to be close to average".

However, they added that this "is being seen in the market as a bit of a disappointment from such good-looking crops".

For winter barley, talk was that yields have been "good on the whole", although "it may be because we've only seen the lighter land crops so far", with more data needed to establish a general trend.

'Localised torrential downpours'

Indeed, Adas highlighted that, for rapeseed, its information was "biased towards early maturing crops in southern England.

"These early crops are often ones where there were problems that have caused early ripening, so early yields may not be representative of the final yield figure."

The consultancy made no comment on prospects for the wheat crop, for which harvest does not typically begin until late July, but which Strategie Grains separately on Thursday said could show quality damage from recent rains, which have threatened ratings of crops in many continental countries too.

In fact, rainfall for the week to Tuesday was modest for the UK overall, at 9mm, with the West Midlands receiving only 2mm-3mm.

However, for the important Eastern growing region, including the key East Anglia cereals belt, rains reached 33mm, with the county of Suffolk receiving 72mm, equivalent to nearly 3 inches.

"Conditions were wettest in the Eastern counties with some localised torrential downpours and intermittent showers," Adas said.

Production forecasts

The US Department of Agriculture last week kept at 5.9m tonnes its estimate for overall UK barley production this year, a figure down 16.8% year on year, reflecting the drop in spring sowings, after farmers got more winter plantings completed in 2013 than in the sodden autumn of 2012.

The rapeseed harvest was pegged at 2.53m tonnes, a rise of 18.9%, also reflecting the improved conditions for planting winter crops.

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