U.K. Harvests Bumper Wheat Crop as EU Hunts for Export Markets

Wheat harvest near the village of Fulbourn, U.K. on Aug. 4, 2015.

Wheat harvest near the village of Fulbourn, U.K. on Aug. 4, 2015.

Photographer: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg
  • Production probably was fourth-highest on record: AHDB
  • U.K. wheat exports in August were 20% lower than last year

France isn’t the only European Union country with a bumper wheat crop this year.

Farmers in the U.K., the EU’s third-biggest grower, harvested 16.13 million metric tons of wheat this year, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said Friday in its first estimate of this season’s crop. While about 3 percent less than last year, it’s still the fourth-biggest production on record, according to the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board.

The supply is adding to record amounts collected in France, the EU’s top grower, at a time when European exporters have struggled to compete against cheaper grain from the Black Sea region. Total EU export licenses to ship wheat are running 23 percent slower than last year’s pace. Benchmark prices traded in Paris reached a 10-month low at the start of September.

“We’ve got a fair amount of stocks carried over from last year and another big crop this year,” Amandeep Kaur Purewal, a senior analyst at the AHDB, said by phone from Kenilworth, England. “Exports are going to be key to stop the stockpiles from accumulating any further.”

It’s the first time that the U.K. has produced more than 16 million tons in two successive years. The country’s exports totaled 103,204 tons in August, 20 percent less than the same month last year, according to customs data distributed by the AHDB.

The crop may be even bigger than the government expects. The National Farmers’ Union said Thursday that the U.K. harvest may have increased from last year to 16.68 million tons, which would be the third-largest ever.

There are also ample supplies of barley, with Defra estimating this year’s crop at 7.28 million tons, 5 percent higher than last year and the most since 1997. The government plans to release its production estimates for other grains and rapeseed on Oct. 15.

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