Defra lowers 2018 wheat area estimate by 49,000ha

Defra has revised down its estimate of the 2018 wheat area, confirming suspicions that its first estimate overstated the size of the 2018 harvest and leading to some confusion about likely end-of-season stock levels.

Questions were raised earlier this year about the accuracy of the data as there was a large discrepancy between the wheat area recorded by the June census and the BPS data for 2018.

After a detailed investigation into this gap, Defra has revised the English wheat area down by 49,000ha to 1.619m hectares, compared with its first estimate of 1.668m hectares.

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The revised figure is much closer to the BPS figure, which recorded the wheat area for 2018 at 1.56m hectares.

Minor revisions have also been made for other crop types.

In an explanatory note, Defra said the inflated figure was down to responses for the 2018 census being submitted at a total business cropping level, rather than a holding level.

To avoid the problem occurring in future, holdings sampled for June 2019 that are known to be a part of larger business have been asked to complete a survey form that relates to each specific holding within the business.

‘No surprise’

AHDB said the reduction in cropping area for England and its subsequent impact on production levels would not come as a surprise to many.

“For the season so far, it has been thought that wheat production has been overstated and the release of information today more reflects the sentiment of the marketplace,” it said.

AHDB said the majority of the old-crop season was now complete, and as the new production estimate closely aligned with expectations, it did not expect to see any great impact upon old-crop price volatility.

“Indeed, old-crop market had been steadily falling to meet new-crop levels prior to the recent bullish trend,” it said.

“This indicates, on the whole, a comfortable end-of-season supply position.”

However, AHDB stressed that the data variances did continue to raise questions regarding the need for accuracy of data for the wider industry.