By FW staff

MAFFs first estimate of the 1998 UK cereals harvest puts the total tonnage at 22.7 million tonnes.

It marks a drop of 3% on the previous year, and suggests a smaller figure than trade and NFU estimates.

Wheat output, for example, is put at 15.4m tonnes, compared with the 15.95m tonnes suggested by Dalgety and the 15.5m tonnes punt from the NFU.

MAFF points to smaller crops and areas as contributing to the overall decline. In the case of barley, 12.5% lower yields and a 7.2% contraction in the area grown left production at 6.6m tonnes.

The wheat harvest, however, increased on the back of a 0.5% increase in plantings and yields were typically 2.4% higher.

“Im surprised,” David Balderson, of Viking Cereals, said of the newly-published figures yesterday (Wednesday). “If the trade generally believed 15.4m tonnes was the wheat figure, futures would have moved up – and they havent.”

Farmers should, meanwhile, take advantage of the more bullish market, rather than closing the barn doors in the hope of further increases. “Sell in to the rise,” he advises.

“But we could still be in for a choppy ride – the Pound may not weaken as some people think.”