UK wheat exports tumbled to their lowest in at least two
years, as inventories began to run low – heralding the squeeze on old-crop supplies
which drove prices back above £200 a tonne.
Wheat shipments from the European Union's third-ranked wheat
producer reached 70,262 tonnes in May, down by nearly one-half on April's
total, and indeed the lowest figure for at least two seasons.
The decline reflected a slump in exports outside the EU to a
mere 246 tonnes, marking the end of a run of shipments to Algeria and the US.
However, shipments to other European countries fell too,
notably to Spain, usually the top buyer of UK wheat, which took only 4,000
tonnes during the month.
The trade drop came in a period in which prospects for
supplies of feed grains, which form a large part of the UK crop, appeared
healthy, with the US looking set at the time for a record corn harvest.
Meanwhile, UK wheat supplies were running thin ahead of the
harvest, with shipments having reached 2.24m tonnes by the end of April, not
far short of an exportable surplus for 2011-12 estimated by agriculture officials
at 2.45m tonnes.
This forecast assumed stocks closing the marketing year, at
the end of last month, at a "historically low" 1.53m tonnes.
In fact, UK wheat prices saw an end-of-season rally which took
London's July futures to £210 a tonne, close to the record high of £222 a
tonne, as rains provoked fears for a delayed harvest, and boosted demand for
crop left over from last year.
FCStone commodity risk manager Jaime Nolan Miralles said on
Tuesday: "Continuous rains and poor sunshine hours [will ensure] harvest will
see delays of between two and three weeks.
"Quality will definitely
underperform last year's averages," he added.