U.K. Wheat Crop May Be Better Than Expected Amid Drier Weather

The wheat crop in the U.K., the European Union’s third-largest grower, may be bigger than previously expected after drier weather in the past two months allowed plant development to accelerate.

Wheat production may be about 12 million metric tons in the 2013-14 harvest, which starts in July, said Jack Watts, a senior analyst at the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board. That compares with an estimate of as low as 9.9 million tons in March. Output is expected to be almost 10 percent less than the previous season’s harvest of 13.3 million tons, after excess rain prevented farmers from planting some winter crops last September and October, he said yesterday.

“Crop prospects in the last two months have improved,” Watts said in an interview at the Cereals conference in Lincolnshire, England. “The weather has been relatively kind to the wheat crop. The industry crop estimates are heading toward 12 million tons, which is lower than last year, but still it’s an improvement from what people were thinking before.”

Feed wheat futures rallied to a record on NYSE Liffe in London last year as the country saw its second-wettest year on record, Met Office data show. Global production slid 6 percent last year amid dry weather in areas of Russia and eastern Europe.

In March, the AHDB said production in the 2013-14 season would be between 9.9 million tons and 13.3 million tons. Many industry analysts were expecting output would fall toward the lower end of that range, before weather conditions started improving in recent weeks, Watts said.

Less Planting

U.K. farmers may have planted wheat for the 2013-14 harvest on an area 29 percent smaller than a year earler, and crop development remains as much as two weeks behind the normal pace, the National Farmers Union said yesterday. The country had its coldest spring this year since 1962, with temperatures in March, April and May averaging about 6 degrees Celsius (43 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the Met Office.

“We’re looking at below-normal yields because of the late drilling, cold winter, cold spring and lack of sunshine,” said Dennis Tabor, who estimates that wheat yields at his farm near Braintree, England, may be 60 percent to 75 percent lower than last year. “The east side of the country has been just about the coldest, and we had six or eight weeks with really cold winds in March and April.”

Still, weather this spring has been drier than in 2012, with rainfall in March, April and May estimated at 92 percent of normal, Met Office data show. Precipitation was below average in March and April and above normal in May, it said.

The quality of the U.K.’s wheat crops may also improve, said Andrew Watts, the NFU’s combinable crops chairman. Last year, rain eroded grain weights, reducing the amount of flour yielded from every kernel, the AHDB has said.

“Certainly we’re in a better place than we were eight weeks ago,” Watts said at a press conference yesterday. “There’s no question things look better.”

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