PRINTABLE VERSION   EMAIL TO A FRIEND   RSS FEEDS 19:02 UK, 11th Dec 2013, by Agrimoney.com
UK wheat harvest could top 15m tonnes in 2014

The UK wheat harvest could top 15m tonnes for only the third time in a decade next year thanks to a jump in autumn plantings, which have been blessed with benign weather leaving excessive growth as a main threat.

Adas, in one of the first published estimates for next year's UK wheat production, said that using the five-year average yield, of 7.5 tonnes per hectare, suggested that the UK will grow 13.9m-14.5m tonnes of wheat next year.

However, with that yield figure including the 2012 crop, which was beset by the second-wettest year on record for the UK, Adas also flagged a calculation based on a 7.8 tonnes-per-hectare result, which would bring the crop to 14.5m-15.1m tonnes.

The 10-year average yield, excluding 2012, is 7.8 tonnes per hectare.

The UK wheat harvest has, in recent years, breached 15m tonnes in 2011 and in 2008, when it hit 17.2m tonnes, boosted by a yield of 8.3 tonnes per hectare.

Winter vs spring

The estimate reflected a "return to a more normal winter-to-spring crop ratio" allowed by a "mild" autumn, which enabled farmers to get ahead on planting wheat, nearly all of which is autumn sown in the UK.

Adas consultant Sara Wynn said: "Early crop area estimates indicate that the wheat area is likely to increase by 15-20% compared to harvest 2013," which was itself affected by the dismal autumn sowing conditions in 2012.

The poor autumn conditions boosted area of spring crops, notably barley, but also oats.

Estimates by the likes of Strategie Grains and The Andersons Centre suggest wheat plantings for next year of about 2m hectares, compared with 1.51m hectares for the 2013 crop.

'Susceptible to lodging'

Ms Wynn also highlighted that "winter crops have all established well and are in good growing condition going into the winter"

Indeed, the downside of such a crop, more of which was planted during September than normal years, early in the sowing window, was that it could prove too strong, raising the risk, for instance, of lodging, in which stalks bend under the weight of the grain, making harvesting difficult.

"Early drilling and lush growth does make the crops more susceptible to lodging and disease, so good management in the spring will be required," she said.

UK prices

The UK is historically the European Union's third-largest wheat exporter, although the poor-quality 2012 crop, and this year's small harvest of 12.1m tonnes, are expected to make it a net importer for two successive seasons.

The small harvest this year - coupled with the strong demand for European Union exports underlined by France on Wednesday - is at least protected UK growers from the decline in wheat prices seen in Chicago in recent weeks.

"The UK is caught between the continued declines in world levels as the market becomes increasingly confident of global supplies and strong export demand for EU wheat," Helen Plant, at the HGCA crop bureau, said.

"With a [2013] crop of 12.1m tonnes the UK needs to transfer, where possible, demand for wheat to alternative grains mainly for animal feed, given the good quality of the 2013 harvest - and limit exports."

London wheat for January closed up 1.1% at 164.55 a tonne on Wednesday.

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