By FWi staff

UK wheat production will be about 16.5 million tonnes this season, 1m tonnes up on last year, according to figures from the HGCA.

With domestic use unlikely to change, the UK is likely to be faced with an exportable surplus of about 4.7m tonnes, up 1.5m tonnes on 1999.

Speaking at the recent HGCA crops marketing conference, economist Gerald Mason said that the main reason for the increase was the 240,000ha rise in UK planting area.

“Yield has varied from below last year in the south and east to similar in the north and higher in Scotland.

“Hagbergs have been generally good this season, averaging 250-300, but that is not all that counts,” said Mr. Mason.

“Foreign millers are currently evaluating UK wheat for use in bread-making – groups 1 and 2 are OK, but group 3 is still uncertain.”

Mr Mason commented that export markets would be increasingly important this season, especially since availability of quality wheat was going to be tight, and drought was threatening US winter wheat plantings.

“Had the quality of UK wheat not had been as good, we could now be faced with a very difficult marketing situation.”

The most dramatic change in fortunes this season has been for spring malting barley growers.

“The situation has gone from one of low premiums and oversupply on barley and malt markets last season, to reduced supply of barley and higher demand for malt,” said Mr Mason.

But he warned that wet weather in Scotland and higher malt premiums could tempt the spring area up again.