Wheat prospects lowest since 1988
By Andrew Blake
WET weather means that this years wheat crop could be the smallest since 1988 when just 11.75m tonnes was produced, claim some industry commentators.
With autumn drillings 30% down and large parts of the country still awash, hopes of matching last years 16.7m tonne output have long gone.
“This time the debate is whether we shall be above or below 13m tonnes,” said John Garstang, national co-ordinator for consultants ADAS.
Another 15% of the originally planned area may have been sown since the Ministry of Agricultures survey last December, he estimates.
But there are big question marks over its performance.
Historically, average yields rarely vary by more than 5%, according to Richard Butler, chairman of the National Farmers Union cereals committee.
“But we are clearly looking at considerably lower than average yields.”
Some crops have been under water for months and many have not yet received key inputs. Prospects for many after maize and potatoes are also very poor.
“We could be 4m tonnes short on last year, which is getting extremely close to our overall consumption,” said Mr Butler.
“We may have to import more than usual at the high quality end.”
Home-Grown Cereals Association economist Julian Bell suggested the crop would be about 12.5m the lower end of a range suggested by a recent survey.
Velcourt technical director Keith Norman said many crops lacked nitrogen and he was also concerned that there would be a “septoria explosion” very soon.
Nevertheless, Richard Jenner of the grain trading co-operative Centaur, which markets all Velcourts grain, still anticipates an exportable surplus of feed wheat.