UK wheat imports rose above 1m tonnes in the first five months of 2012-13, far outpacing exports, as the country continued to feel pressure from a dismal domestic harvest.
The UK, the European Union's third-ranked wheat grower, shipped 97,641 tonnes of the grain in November, the worst record since 2001 for a month which is typically the high point of the export year.
The figure, down 77% year on year, took to nearly 477,000 tonnes exports for the 2012-13 marketing year, which started in July.
This figure is well behind the 1.04m tonnes that the UK has imported over the period in an attempt to fill the void left by a harvest which achieved the worst yield in 20 years and the lowest bushel weight on records going back to 1977.
Imports so far are more than in the whole of last season.
As an extra support to import needs, consumption appears relatively robust too, buoyed by the restart of the Ensus grain ethanol plant, which is using corn to meet some of its needs, and the opening of the nearby Vivergo site.
UK wheat imports and (total from Germany)
2012-13, Jul-Nov: 1.04m tonnes, (311,313 tonnes)
2011-12: 907,032 tonnes, (161,643 tonnes)
2010-11: 999,902 tonnes
2009-10: 1.241m tonnes
"As we have seen in similar situations previously, [consumers] have bought wheat which now looks expensive and they almost hope that the market will rise again to spare their embarrassment and to allow them to justify end-product price rises to their customers," traders at a major European commodities house said.
The UK's wheat imports hit 225,262 tonnes in November, largely from France and Poland, but also with a big slug – of 86,901 tonnes – from Germany, a major source of hard milling wheat.
The low quality of the UK's 2012 crop has left supplies of higher grade milling wheat particularly short.
Imports from Germany reached 86,900 tonnes in November – more than in the whole of 2011-12.