UK struggles to export surplus wheat

By Johann Tasker

THIS seasons wheat crop continues to cause a major headache for grain traders: No one, it seems, wants to buy UK wheat.

Exports to December 1997 are 900,000 tonnes down on the same period last year, according to the latest supply and demand estimates released this morning.

Figures from the Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) show only 1.5m tonnes of wheat have been sold to overseas buyers, compared with 2.4m tonnes last year.

As a result, export availability of wheat remains at 3.4m tonnes – leaving traders with much to do before harvest begins again in July.

“It is a problem area,” acknowledged David Sheppard, director of grain traders Gleadell Banks. “The world market doesnt want UK feed wheat when better quality wheat can be bought cheaper from countries like Argentina.”

Mr Sheppard estimated that 500,000 tonnes of this seasons wheat promises to be “difficult to shift.” Much of that wheat will be of feed quality at around 68-70kg/hl specific weight.

The situation could be even worse, said Angela Gibson, trader with Glencor Grain. Exports so far this season are probably 200,000 t lower than the official estimates, she added. That would leave a surplus of 700,000 tonnes.

“There is still a long way to go,” Ms Gibson. “The only thing farmers can hope for is a weakening of Sterling to make us more competitive.”

According to Andrew Dewing of Aylsham Grain Marketing, every trader in the industry knows this seasons wheat surplus will be larger than expected.

“The trade has been keeping its eye on exports,” he said. “Theres no longer an argument about whether or not a surplus exists – the argument now is just how big it is going to be.”

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