UK wheat imports top forecasts. Corn sets record

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.

Rainfall hangover

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 a decade.

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.

Corn record

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.

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