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
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.
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
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.