Forecasters see a lack of rain after driest April in a decade
Yield impact to be clearer in two to three weeks, ODA says
U.K. wheat farmers aren’t getting much respite from dryness threatening crops in parts of the European Union’s third-largest producer.
Coming off the back of the driest April in a decade, a lack of rain this week will put stress on crop development, according to MDA Weather Services. The U.K.’s Met Office expects southeast England -- the nation’s main growing region -- to remain dry through early June, and AccuWeather sees a potential drought across the south by late summer hurting crops and restricting water usage.
The winter-wheat crop that’s collected in July and August is now in the crucial growth stage, so a prolonged lack of moisture could damage yields. The International Grains Council forecasts farmers to harvest a similar size crop to last year, which was the smallest since 2013. The reduced output and more demand, including from the ethanol industry, has helped U.K. feed-wheat futures climb 8 percent this year.
“Unless we get some rain shortly, some yield deterioration will occur in some parts,” Rupert Somerscales, a consultant at Offre & Demande Agricole’s U.K. unit, said by phone. “It is too early to quantify that damage now and a clearer picture of yields will occur in the next two to three weeks.”
Dry conditions this week are also set to put pressure on U.K. rapeseed crops, MDA said. The country is the EU’s third-largest producer of the oilseed.
Rainfall across the U.K. last month was less than half the average of the past three decades, according to the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board. In some of the worst-hit areas of the southeast, the amount was about 85 percent below normal during the past 40 days, British Weather Services said.
The U.K. will probably harvest 14.4 million tons of wheat this year, almost unchanged from a year earlier, the IGC estimated in late April. In 2016, the crop shrank 12 percent.
Other parts of Europe also suffered from dryness in recent months, before rains returned to most wheat-growing areas at the start of May. While any intermittent showers in the next week will give U.K. crops some relief, they probably won’t be enough to alleviate the moisture deficit, Jim Dale, a senior risk meteorologist at British Weather Services, said by email.
“It looks like a drought is developing, looking at May forecasts for southeast England,” James Nott, a farmer in Essex, northeast of London, said by phone. “I just don’t see any rains.”