Encouraging signs for UK wheat harvest quality

26 August, 2011

With just over 65% of the UK’s wheat harvest combined, the quality reports look promising, despite yield being down on its five-year average. Elsewhere in Europe, however, heavy rain has hit the German harvest with a number of farmers forced to source wheat from the UK.

According to a report from ADAS and the HGCA, the quality of the early harvested wheat has been good, “with Hagbergs for milling wheat mostly in excess of 300 seconds, specific weights averaging 78-80 kg/hl and protein levels close to 13%”. However, the average yield to date is 7.3-7.7 t/ha, which is below the five-year average of 7.8 t/ha for winter wheat.

Recent rainfall has pushed back the mid-August completion date forecast earlier this year, with the harvest now set to carry on for another two weeks, said Gary Sharkey, head of wheat procurement at Rank Hovis.

The harvest progress is still ahead of the average for this time of year. Jack Watts, AHDB’s cereals and oilseeds senior analyst, confirmed that just over 65% had been combined, “which is quite a way above the average of around 50% [at this time in August]”. He added that as the higher quality bread wheats would have been harvested first, there were no major concerns over quality following the recent rainfall.

Sharkey said that because of the later rains in the UK, the crop is probably higher in volume terms than was originally expected: “It had been forecast to be around 14m tonnes earlier this year, then following a period of hot weather it was drifted down to 14mt; now it’s predicted to be around 15mt, so a reasonably sized crop in the UK.”
 
Lewis Wright, trading director at ADM Milling, said early indications are that the quantity of wheat harvested will exceed initial expectations. “The quality of the harvest is also looking promising,” commented Wright.

“Overall, the price of UK wheat will continue to be influenced by the general economic outlook as well as the global wheat market. Economic uncertainty, particularly in the Euro zone, means that all markets have been volatile of late and this is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.”

Sharkey said that wheat prices were currently moving sideways, though a number of different dynamics, such as the lower corn yields expected in the US - resulting in higher corn prices and consumers switching to wheat products - could push up wheat prices going forwards.

He added: “If the biofuel industry is running at the perceived rate, then we will also lower our exportable surplus this year, maybe to 1.5mt tonnes, down from 2.5mt last year, so there won’t be that much available for export and it could go quite quickly.”

Meanwhile, in Continental Europe, there are concerns over the quality of the German crop as rain delayed harvest. Last week the German Farm Co-operative Association decreased its grain production forecast by 0.9Mt to 40.3Mt (44.2Mt 2010) due to wet weather damaging crops already weakened by dry weather in May/June, said the HGCA.

Sharkey, who spent two days in Germany this week said he had spoken to one farmer who had so far tried to combine one of his fields five times.





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