UK rapeseed exports to Poland soar - or do they?

The best April figure for UK rapeseed exports on record may not have been quite so strong at all, with the HGCA questioning a figure showing Poland taking more in one month than it has for the past 15 years combined.

Customs data on Thursday revealed that the UK had exported 119,959 tonnes of rapeseed in April, the highest monthly total since August 2012 and an unusually strong performance so late in the marketing year.

However, the figure, which took the total for the first 10 months of 2013-14 to 365,585 tonnes, may have been based on an error.

It included the export of 100,000 tonnes of rapeseed to Poland far more than the country has imported from the UK this century until then. It had not imported any UK rapeseed since August.

"We have concerns regarding this figure, and have submitted a request to [customs officials] to investigate," the HGCA crop bureau said.

'Out of sorts'

"Poland is not a normal destination for such large UK rapeseed exports," said Charlotte Garbutt, HGCA senior analyst, cereals and oilseeds.

Besides being a large producer itself, and vying with the UK for third rank among European Union growers, it is next to Germany, the bloc's top producer, and perhaps a more natural origin for import supplies.

"We cannot say it is categorically wrong, but it is definitely out of sorts," Ms Garbutt told, adding that the HGCA's concerns had been echoed by some market participants too.

Net wheat importer, again

The data were released with figures showing that the UK had for a 23rd successive month imported more wheat than it exported, against the typical trend.

Imports, while down 9.8% month on month at 113,861 tonnes, far exceeded exports, of 26,910 tonnes, a gain of 7.3% from March.

Imports from Germany, a major source of hard milling wheat used for making bread, remained firm, at 32,800 tonnes, although buy-ins from Denmark were particularly strong, at nearly 48,000 tonnes.

For exports, Italy and Spain, feed markets and historically strong buyers of UK wheat, were the top destinations.

'A lot of work to do'

The poor export performance represented a hangover from a dismal 2012, the second wettest year on record for the UK, which hampered the quality of that year's harvest and, in limiting autumn sowings, curtailed the quantity of last year's production.

However, with a better harvest on the cards this year, the UK is expected to return to being a net export in 2014-15 although the grain may struggle to regain its former markets now that other origins, and corn, have raised their profile with traditional buyers.

"UK wheat has a lot of work to do in 2014-15 to win back demand in both domestic and export markets," the HGCA's Jack Watts said.

"The prospect of a larger EU crop and strengthening of the pound are both additional challenges to overcome."

In Spain, for instance, "the UK will have to displace French wheat from the market, so our price competitiveness with French wheat will be a key determining factor," Mr Watts said.

"Currently though, UK prices appear uncompetitive with French something that may well have to change once the reality of harvest has arrived."

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