By Tom Allen-Stevens
THIS years UK wheat crop is the smallest since 1983, cutting export availability to less than a third of the usual amount.
The first balance sheet figures of the season were released by the Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs on Wednesday (24 October).
Wheat production for the year has been put at 11.96 million tonnes, 4.7m tonnes below last season, but on a par with the most recent estimates.
Opening stocks and imports are both forecast higher than last season, making up around 1m tonnes of the compromised production.
But this still leaves wheat availability at only 15.7m tonnes, down 3.7m tonnes on last season.
Partly offsetting is a drop in animal feed use, forecast at around 6.2m tonnes, down 0.7m tonnes as users switch to more competitive grains such as barley.
This leaves the UK with 1.2m tonnes of wheat available for export, well below the usual 3-4m tonnes.
At 6.9m tonnes the barley crop is 0.4m tonnes bigger than last season.
Much of this will be soaked up by animal feed users switching grain, leaving a total of around 1.6m tonnes available for export or intervention.
The Defra figures reflect not only the reduction in planted wheat area, but also yields well below trend as a result of the wettest season on record (since 1766).
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