UK corn and wheat imports have beaten official expectations
for the full season with a month to spare – the former thanks to increased
popularity in animal feed, and the latter thanks to a quest for hard milling
UK wheat imports rebounded in May to a seven-month high of
182,219 tonnes, customs data showed.
The figure exceeded exports, at an eight-month low of 20,740
tonnes, for a 23rd successive month.
That is unusual for the UK, typically a net exporter, but which
has been driven to imports by an unusually wet 2012, which hurt badly the quality
of that year's crop, and prevented significant autumn sowings for the 2013
The figure took total volumes for 2013-14 to 1.98m tonnes –
exceeding the 1.93m tonnes forecast by Defra, the UK farm ministry, with one
months' figures still to be included.
Hard wheat in demand
The 58% bounce in wheat imports in May, from April, tallies
with forecasts from the likes of Carr's Milling Industries of a late-season resurgence
Many commentators, puzzled over an apparent squeeze in UK
supplies, have questioned whether last year's wheat harvest was as large as the
11.92m tonnes that officials have pencilled in, even though that was the smallest
result in more than a decade.
May's imports came largely from Germany, at nearly 74,000
tonnes, and Canada, at 28,800 tonnes, both exporters of hard milling wheat used
in making bread flour.
For corn, imports in May recovered to 198,554 tonnes, taking
the total volumes for the first 11 months of 2013-14 to 2.28m tonnes.
That beat the Defra forecast of 2.18m tonnes with a month to
spare, and represented a record high even for a full season.
The grain has grown in popularity among livestock feeders
thanks largely the relatively weak supplies of wheat, which have kept prices of
the grain relatively high, improving the appeal of corn imports.
Use of corn in animal feed was up 58% in the 12 months to
June, according to Defra.
However, the UK is expected to return to being a net wheat exporter
in 2014-15, with this year's harvest seen showing a sharp recovery, estimated
by the US Department of Agriculture at 28%, taking production to 15.3m tonnes.
UK consumption is typically about 14m tonnes a year.
The improved hopes for the domestic harvest have added to pressure
from hopes of decent production in many major foreign producing countries to
send London November wheat futures to a four-year intraday low, for a spot contract,
of £128.25 a tonne on Tuesday.
The contract on Wednesday stood at £129.25 a tonne, a gain
of 0.4% on the day.