UK wheat imports put in a strong finish to 2013-14, far
exceeding expectations, as exports put in their worst performance in more than
20 years, with buy-ins of corn rising too, to a record high.
The UK imported 2.21m tonnes of wheat in the year to the end
of June, exceeding a farm ministry estimate upgraded in May to 1.93m tonnes.
The figure also far outpaced exports which, at 431,091 tonnes,
were the lowest on records going back 21 years, although in line with ministry expectations.
The performance means that the UK £ the EU's third-ranked
wheat producer, and typically a net exporter £ ran up net imports of 4.0m
tonnes thanks to the setbacks wrought by 2012, the country's second wettest
year on record.
Over the previous decade, the UK was a net exporter of an
average of 1.5m tonnes of wheat a year.
Imports ended 2013-14 on a high note, at a nine-month high of 225,032 tonnes, fulfilling expectations of a late upsurge as domestic supplies ran low.
Most of the impact of the persistent 2012 rains were seen in
2012-13, when the poor quality of the harvest left much of the crop below even
the standards demanded by feed users.
However, the rainfall also, by hampering autumn sowings, impacted
2013 production too, reducing it to 11.9m tonnes, the lowest level in more than
However, with output seen staging a sharp recovery this year,
the UK is seen as returning to a net exporter in 2014-15 £ with its prospects
boosted by the harvest-time rains affecting crops in much of continental
Europe, resulting in substantial quality downgrades.
The US Department of Agriculture on Tuesday ditched ideas of
the European Union, for the first time, becoming the world's top wheat
exporter, thanks to the amount of prized milling grain now fit only for feed.
For corn, UK imports soared 41% in 2013-14 to 2.39m tonnes,
the highest on record, according to the HGCA crop bureau, and again above farm
ministry expectations, upgraded in May to 2.18m tonnes.
Corn imports at that level, more typical of countries such
as Saudi Arabia, were encouraged by the low level of the UK's 2013 wheat harvest,
which left livestock feeders seeking alternative grains.
Indeed, London feed wheat futures averaged some £45 a tonne more
than Chicago corn over 2013-14, according to the HGCA crop bureau.
The main origin of UK corn imports was Ukraine, at 712,423
tonnes, followed by France at 572,927 tonnes and Bulgaria at 312,632 tonnes.