Record wheat harvest underlines importance of market

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The NFU has revealed that this year’s harvest is set to become the biggest wheat yield on record.

However, it warns that this will only add to the concerns by growers who fear this will increase pressure on the market.

NFU survey results show a six per cent wheat yield rise year-on-year, from 8.6 to 9.1 tonnes per hectare. Even with a reported decrease in area planted this year, UK total wheat production is estimated at 16.68 million tonnes for 2015, beating last year’s figure of 16.61 million tonnes.

Mike Hambly portrait in field_200_300Mike Hambly, NFU combinable crops board chairman, said that the record yields appeared to paint an optimistic picture for arable farming, but there were some caveats.

“It is great news to see the nation has had such a successful harvest for wheat. However, in a global context we have seen a sequence of good harvests and grain stocks are currently comfortable,” he said.

“Cereal prices are global and like most commodities are currently low. For example, we’ve already seen prices taking a 30% tumble over the past two years, similar to our friends in the dairy sector, and costs of production staying put. Many growers are facing the prospect that grain prices will fail to cover the cost of production.

“For some this will be the second year they have endured such a situation and with forward prices for next harvest also below cost of production some could see no profit from those crops for three consecutive seasons.

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Our survey said...

  • Estimated Winter Barley yield is 7.5 tonnes/hectare, thiscompares to 7.2 tonnes/hectare in 2014 (4% increase year-on-year) and the ten-year average of 6.5 tonnes/hectare
  • Estimated Spring Barley yield is 5.9 tonnes/hectare - very similar to last year. The ten-year average is 5.4 tonnes/hectare
  • Estimated Oilseed Rape yield is 3.8 tonnes/hectare, thiscompares to 3.6 tonnes/hectare in 2014 (5.5% increase year on year) and the ten-year average of 3.4 tonnes/hectare, but just below the 3.9 t/ha average in 2011.
  • Historical data can be found here.

“There are a number of real opportunities where we believe government should act to help improve the competitive position for our industry. It is vital for departments across government to take a closer look at how regulation impacts arable farmers. This includes the Department for Transport on their UK cap on crops used for biofuels to bring them back into line with EU targets, the Financial Conduct Authority on essential access to the futures markets for coping with volatile prices. 

“We are also encouraging Defra to support our calls for access to the plant protection products that safeguard our yields from loss to disease, weed and pest competition; and for a review of EU fertiliser tariffs that we believe are driving production costs up.”

Mr Hambly added that grain analysis results were also looking very encouraging.

“Most quality crops were harvested before excessive rain and meet specifications for milling and malting,” he said.

“However, we are aware some growers in certain areas did suffer deterioration in quality with harvesting delayed by the wet weather in August causing their crops to fail to meet some processors requirements, leading to a consequent downgrading to a lower specification and reduction in price.

“The value of the cereals sector has more than doubled in the past five years to nearly £3.5billion. The importance of our part in producing food for the nation, contributing to the economy and creating jobs cannot be underrated.

“We’ve also seen some very welcome increases against last year’s excellent yields in most of our other major arable crops, despite some difficult pest control challenges particularly with insect damage to oilseed rape crops during the growing season.”

The 2015 total wheat production figure is below the record level in 2008 when 17.23 million tonnes of wheat was produced and also that of 2000 when 16.70 million tonnes of wheat was produced.

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