U.K. Wheat Imports Seen Lower by Government Even as Crop Shrinks

U.K. wheat imports will plunge 45 percent this season even after the domestic harvest shrank because improved crop quality in the period means millers can use more local grain, according to the government.

Imports will fall to 1.62 million metric tons in the 2013-14 crop year begun July 1 from 2.94 million tons in the prior period, according to Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs data distributed today by the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board. Last year’s imports were the highest since 1978, according to the AHDB, after the second-rainiest year in a century slashed grain weights, meaning every kernel yielded less flour when milled.

Wet weather also prevented sowing of winter varieties of wheat last autumn, reducing the harvest that took place in August and September 2013. Production in 2013-14 totaled 12.1 million tons, 8.7 percent less than the prior year and the least since 2001, according to Defra. Today’s report represents the first official demand figures from Defra for this season, while harvest estimates were reported in October.

“It was a small crop, but a good-quality crop,” Jack Watts, a senior analyst at the AHDB, said by telephone today from Kenilworth, England. “As a result, we would expect imports to slow down through the remainder of the season. This domestic crop was much more usable by millers.”

Grain Purchases

Imports will be larger than an AHDB estimate in October for buying to total 1.41 million tons. Purchases were larger than expected in the crop year’s first quarter as buyers boosted inventories because of uncertainty about domestic production prior to this year’s harvest, Watts said.

About 7.81 million tons of wheat will go to human and industrial consumption, which includes food and ethanol use, according to the Defra report. That’s 3.1 percent higher than the prior year. Usage in livestock feed will decline 14 percent from the previous season to 5.9 million tons.

The surplus of supply left for exports or stockpiling at the end of the season will be 388,000 tons, 70 percent less than the previous season, Defra said.

U.K. imports of corn were predicted to fall 6.7 percent to 1.58 million tons, Defra said. Total imports of all grains will be 3.3 million tons, 34 percent less than the prior year, according to the report.

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