The patchy quality of this year’s UK wheat harvest will force British millers to con- tinue importing higher-than- usual amounts of bread-making wheat.

According to Alex Waugh, director of the National Association of British and Irish Millers, the amount of grain imported from North America and Europe is expected to exceed 1m tonnes in 2008/09 - higher than the usual 900,000 tonnes.

"Last year, imports from North America were up because of the very steep increase in European prices, which for a time caused a change in normal price relationships," he said. "We expect imports to remain relatively high this year, because of quality issues relating to the UK harvest."

Wheat prices are expected to remain steady, he added. "Grain markets seem unlikely to fall much further, but we are not expecting big price rises over the next few months either," he said.

A tonne of bread-making wheat delivered to Liverpool is currently valued at around £160, down from around £190 this time last year.