UK produces 10% less grain

First official estimates from DEFRA confirm that the UK has produced substantially less grain this season, with wheat seeing the biggest drop, oats also down, but barley making up some of the shortfall.

The data, which is based on June Survey plantings and yield data from over 1700 farmers, put total UK grain production for 2009 at 21.8m tonnes, a drop of 10%.

DEFRA says the downturn is due to the difficult planting conditions last autumn, the lower prices available for cereals and another wet harvest in parts of the UK.

Within this total, the wheat crop is estimated at 14.2m tonnes, a decrease of 18%. This was based on an average yield of 7.9t/ha and a 14% decrease in the sown area.

But the difficult harvest has led to a wider than normal range of yields. For example, the south-east of England saw an average wheat crop of 8.2t/ha, while the rainy north-west achieved just 4.3t/ha.

Overall, the DEFRA harvest estimate for wheat is slightly above the figure put out by the NFU in September, which put the English crop at 12.9m tonnes, compared with the government’s figure of 13.2m tonnes.

Oats production was also down by 7% to 731,000t, as plantings and yields fell.

But the barley crop is put 10% higher at 6.7m tonnes, due primarily to a significant rise in the spring-sown area, as farmers made up for lost plantings the previous autumn.

Trade reaction to this official data has been muted, with both wheat and barley sitting comfortably within merchants’ “pencilled-in” ranges.

“The big surprise came in mid-September, when DEFRA issued its plantings estimates, which were far lower than the trade had been anticipating,” said HGCA senior analysts Jack Watts. The market had jumped by £5/t off the back of that.

But while prices have been unaffected by the latest production figures, they do provide another important line in the grain trade balance.

With opening wheat stocks of 2.8m tonnes, production of 14.2m tonnes and consumption of 14.7m tonnes, the HGCA believes the UK has a 2.3m tonne export surplus to shift.