27 June 1997

UK lead field for wheat

BRITISH cereal farmers are among the most efficient wheat growers in the western world. But low-yielding farms face a bleak future.

Speaking at this weeks Sprays and Sprayers Event, Whittlesford, Cambs, Hydro Agris head of agronomy Jim Lewis said the UKs advantage was based on a better technical performance than its main competitors.

"Higher yields, coupled with a rationalisation of fixed costs over the past decade, has given many UK farmers the edge," said Dr Lewis.

His comments were based on a study of prime wheat-growing areas in England, France, Germany and the US, conducted on behalf of Hydro by farm business consultants Andersons.

The survey, based on the 1995 harvest, revealed UK farmers had the highest average yield of 9t/ha (3.6t/acre) and profit of £328/ha (£133/acre). French growers margins were depressed by high costs and US producers lost £2.91/ha (£1.17/acre). German farmers had the highest profit/tonne of £40.45. That compared with a UK figure of £36.44/t.

But by the year 2000, high yielding farms in the UK could have caught up with Germany. According to the study, high yielding producers in both those countries are expected to be making £18/t profit before area aid, while low yielding farmers in the UK will be losing £7/t (before subsidy).n