By Tom Allen-Stevens

PROVISIONAL results from the long-awaited HGCA 2001 planting survey show that wheat plantings have dropped 17.6% this year and stand at 1.70 million hectares.

Taking a conservative estimate of yields 5% below normal, this puts the total UK wheat crop at around 13.0m tonnes,

This is slightly higher than previous trade estimates of around 12.5mt.

The market has seen huge swings in recent months as speculation over the size of the 2001 harvest crop has intensified.

The bad weather and late plantings have confounded attempts by market analysts to get reasonably accurate estimates of plantings.

“We think this is a fairly good reflection of the true picture,” said HGCA crop marketing director Alastair Dickie.

“Most people have been working on a wheat area estimate of 1.65m ha – this higher figure has certainly surprised me.”

This is the first impartial estimate of crop plantings this season and the only one available until MAFFs June census is published in September.

The figures are based on a survey sent to 5000 arable farmers. The HGCA received 2200 forms – a reasonably high return rate.

Previous years results have shown the HGCA figures to be one of the most accurate estimates of plantings to be published.

Spring barley plantings stand at 0.71m ha, more than 50% increase on last year, according to the survey.

The winter barley area is down 15% to 0.49m ha, oilseed rape has risen 13% to 375,000ha and linseed has dropped 64% on last year to 25,283ha.

The COCERAL figures, the previous most reliable estimate of plantings from the European Association of Trade Associations, put the UK wheat crop at 12.8m tonnes.

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