The UK harvest is now estimated to be 80-85% complete. There is little left to do in the south, although there are still fields to be cut further north and in the west.
As in other parts of Europe, yields are reported to be down on last year. Official figures are unlikely to be available for some weeks, but a reduction in the size of the harvest of about 10% is anticipated.
This failure to meet expectations across the main EU grain-producing regions has been behind the very steep increases in wheat prices in the last few weeks. The prices for 2007 now stand at double the level of a year ago, and bread wheat delivered to the north west is now over £200 per tonne. So, as far as quality is concerned, it is still too early to provide any definitive picture. However, reports from around the country suggest that protein levels are generally acceptable, but that variability is to be expected with some reports of low bushel weights and lower hagberg falling numbers.
This means that, despite such high prices, millers will have to be selective about their wheat purchases.
At the moment, apart from price, the main problem faced by the milling sector is availability as farmers are reluctant sellers, while wheat prices are still rising.
Therefore a period of market stability would be very helpful so that grain can come to the market in a more orderly fashion.