Depressed protein levels represent the "main concern" for
the UK wheat harvest, consultancy Adas said as it revealed strong results from
other quality specifications as farmers step up the pace of harvesting.
Britain's farmers harvested 650,000 hectares of crops last
week, an area roughly the size of Devon, the third biggest county, and up from
500,000 hectares the week before, helped by weather which has been largely dry –
unlike in many other parts of Europe.
"Just under 40% of the British cereals and oilseed rape area
has been harvested to date," with 20% of wheat in the barn, "the most rapid
early progress in recent years", Adas said.
And, for wheat, the results continue to show "above average"
yields, "with most crops yielding above the farm average", if with poorer results
from fields which succumbed to relatively high disease pressures seen earlier
in the season.
Yields range from 3.7-13.0 tonnes per hectare, compared with
an average of 7.7 tonnes per hectare.
On quality - a particularly key concern this year, given the
rain damage to crops in continental Europe and parts of Ukraine – crops are
scoring well on specific weight and Hagberg falling numbers.
Specific weight, the mass of grain per given volume, is
averaging about 77 kilogrammes per hectolitre, in line with the 2013 result,
and well above the figure of 69.6 seen in 2012, the second wettest year on
record for the UK, which caused significant downgrades to feed – much as being
seen in France this year.
On Hagberg falling number, a measure of the sprouting which
is encouraged by rains on ripe kernels, the crop is averaging 308 seconds, well
above the average, and the poor levels being seen on parts of the continent.
One major European commodities house estimates that only
one-third of French wheat will meet the Hagberg number of 225 seconds needed to
meet requirements of Algeria and other North African countries, usually major
buyers of French grain.
However, for the UK, "the main concern is the low protein",
Adas said, with the range of results of 9-12.5% suggesting a crop with a level
below the average of 12%.
"There are reports of Group 1 milling wheats," the top UK
grade, "with grain proteins of less than 11.5%."
In fact, higher protein levels are often encouraged by crop
stress, rather than the benign conditions of this year, with even 2012 coming
in at 12.5% protein.
"The result does not surprise me," a UK trader told
"But if there is one thing you would not worry about so much,
it is protein. That is relatively easy to blend out, by mixing with higher
protein wheat, compared with boosting the quality of grains deficient in other
'More rain is coming'
The results of the UK harvest are being keenly viewed by
merchants both domestically and abroad, given the need to replace French
supplies which, thanks to harvest-time rains, no longer meet export grades.
There has been some talk of the UK - the third-ranked EU
wheat producer, typically renowned as a source of feed grain for the likes of
Spain – becoming an origin of milling wheat to the likes of Algeria, if only
after blending with higher protein supplies from the likes of Canada or
Much focus has also centred on Germany, renowned for its
high protein wheat, and Poland, although questions marks over wheat quality in these
countries too have been raised after recent rains.
World Weather said on Thursday that "eastern France and western
and Germany trended drier Wednesday, but more rain is coming today through the weekend.
"Two large storm systems and two minor disturbances are
expected over the next five days assuring periodic rainfall with some of it
moderate in intensity."
Further ahead, "less significant rainfall will evolve during
the middle to latter part of next week from central France through central and
southern Germany to Poland, allowing for some better drying and harvest