UK corn, wheat imports beat forecasts with ease

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 grain.

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 harvest too.

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 in volumes.

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.

Corn demand

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.

Price impact

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.

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