UK wheat harvest fell even further than thought

The UK wheat harvest this year was even smaller than had been thought, falling below 12m tonnes for the first time in 12 years, officials said, highlighting "very difficult" planting conditions.

The UK farm ministry, Defra, cut by 200,000 tonnes to 11.9m tonnes its estimate of this year's domestic wheat harvest, the European Union's third biggest after French and German crops.

The downgrade in the harvest - the weakest since the 11.58m tonnes recorded in 2001 - reflected an estimate that area fell even further than had been previously estimated, thanks to a dismal autumn sowings period.

The persistent rains in 2012, the second wettest year on record for the UK, after devastating the quality of that year's harvest prevented farmers from working fields to prepare for this year's crop.

'Very difficult conditions'

The downgrade "reflects the very difficult planting conditions over the winter which led to a 19% decrease in the planted area," Defra said, trimming by 11,000 hectares to 1.62m hectares its estimate for wheat sowings.

"Wheat, winter barley and oilseed rapeseed production all suffered following the difficult weather conditions of last winter and spring."

Indeed, the wheat crop would have been smaller had it not been for a late-season pick-up in conditions.

"The weather finally improved over late spring and summer which allowed those crops that survived to produce improved yields on last year, with yields increasing by 11% to 7.4 tonnes per hectare.

"Yields were not as bad as originally feared following the wet winter and cold spring, as the sunshine during July greatly improved the situation."

'Suffered due to late drilling'

Defra reduced too its estimates for UK output of barley, oats and rapeseed, but by smaller amounts, reflecting also reductions to area figures.

For rapeseed, the yield of 3.0 tonnes per hectare represents a nine-year low, reflecting the increased proportion in the mix of spring plantings, which is less productive than autumn-sown crop.

"The winter oilseed rape yield suffered due to late drilling followed by the wet winter, and this combined with a higher proportion of lower yielding spring plantings has contributed to the overall fall in yield."

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