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UK wheat imports drop, led by trade from Germany

UK wheat imports slowed dramatically in February, hitting their lowest in 20 months, as millers returned to domestic supplies, although the country retained its unusual situation of being a net buyer of the grain.

The UK, the European Union's third-ranked wheat producer, imported 82,009 tonnes of wheat in February, down one-third on the total the previous month, customs data showed.

Year on year, the figure represented a 68% decline, and was the lowest since June 2012, as the UK, during its second wettest year on record, neared a harvest which proved one of the worst in quality terms in memory - hurt by the excessive rains which also set back sowings ahead of the 2013 crop.

Last year's harvest was the smallest in more than a decade, and many investors believe it fell even below the 11.9m tonnes official data suggest, given the resilient premiums for milling wheat which have kept UK wheat imports surprisingly strong up until February.

Purchases from Germany tumble

Even in February, imports exceeded exports for a 21st successive month although, at less than 24,000 tonnes, the trade gap narrowed considerably from more than 80,000 tonnes in January.

Purchases from Germany, a source of hard milling wheat, fell particularly in February, by 76% month on month to 13,097 tonnes, the lowest monthly figure for imports on this route for nigh on two years.

However, Carr's Milling Industries, one of the UK's biggest flour producers, cautioned this week of the potential for a late-season revival in wheat imports, with levels of domestic supplies held on farm appearing smaller than had been thought, and backing doubts over the 11.9m-tonne estimate for last year's harvest.

Corn, rapeseed trade

Tuesday's customs data also revealed a fall in UK imports of corn, by 45% month on month to 172,510 tonnes, a dynamic some investors had expected given potential unwillingness to purchase from Ukraine after the crisis began in earnest there in February.

UK rapeseed imports fell to 10,596 tonnes, comfortably behind exports of 48,173 tonnes, and returning the country to its usual position of being a net exporter of the oilseed.

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