The U.K. imported more than twice the amount of wheat it exported in October, widening this year’s grain-trade deficit, after wet weather cut yields and reduced the quality of the domestic harvest.
Wheat purchases climbed to 220,874 metric tons in October, the highest for the month on records since 1992, surpassing exports of 90,355 tons, the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board said today in an e-mailed report, citing customs figures. Cumulative imports in the marketing year that began July 1 are 811,136 tons, against shipments of 379,358 tons. The U.K. was last a net importer of the grain in the 2001-02 season.
June to August was the wettest in 100 years in the U.K., according to the Met Office, the national weather forecaster. Excess rain has cut wheat grain weights to the lowest since 1977, reducing the amount of flour millers can extract from every kernel, the AHDB has said. The U.K. is the European Union’s third-largest wheat grower.
“We had very thin carryover stocks and low bushel weights from this year’s harvest,” Jack Watts, a senior analyst at the AHDB’s Home-Grown Cereals Authority, said today in a phone interview from Kenilworth, England. “Demand domestically is holding up at the moment, but whether that continues into the New Year is really uncertain because high feed-grain prices are really squeezing livestock margins.”
Feed-wheat futures have jumped 40 percent this year on NYSE Liffe in London, with the May contract reaching 230 pounds ($373) a ton on Nov. 28, an all-time high, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Farmers harvested 13.31 million tons of wheat this year, the least since 2007, as yields tumbled to a 23-year low, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said Oct. 15.
The government expects imports may total 2.046 million tons this season, more than double the amount in the 2011-12 marketing year.
Germany has been the biggest supplier of wheat to the U.K. this season, with 224,412 tons shipped since July 1, followed by France and Canada, AHDB said. The U.K. has purchased 19,226 tons from the U.S., the world’s biggest wheat exporter. Spain was the biggest customer of U.K. wheat this season, with purchases totaling 196,921 tons.
During October, U.K. imports of corn rose to 117,180 tons, the highest for any month since December 2010, AHDB data show. Purchases of soybeans at 132,968 tons during the month were the highest since July 2010. Brazil has been the U.K.’s largest soybean supplier so far this season, followed by the U.S., while France was the biggest shipper of corn.
U.K. rapeseed exports in October were 25,345 tons, topping imports of 822 tons, AHDB said. Barley shipments were 18,696 tons during the month, surpassing purchases of 10,327 tons.