Harvest appears to be approaching sooner than some expected, with some fields of winter barley here in the Borders already cut.
Winter barley cut in Southern England to date has been variable, but the general picture is of low specific weights, high screening levels and modest yields.
Harvest results have started to come in from AHDB recommended list trials from Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Suffolk, but with only three results in so far, it is too early to get a full picture of variety performance.
So far, though, the yield average of 8.85t/ha for 2016 is, however, down on the five-year average of 9.32 t/ha. Looking at the annual trends, the average yield is lower than we have seen in 2014 and 2015, but up on 2012 and 2013.
GB winter barley plantings have fallen 2% with England down 1% and Scotland down 9%. GB spring barley plantings for 2016 harvest have seen an increase of 6% since 2015. However, in Scotland spring barley plantings have fallen 5% which could be due to a decrease in malting barley demand and seeing some growers switch to oats instead (see also on page 27).
As the 2015 harvest marketing season draws to a close, UK export figures confirm 1.89m tonnes of barley had been exported by the end of May and the total is expected to pass the 1.9m tonne figure before the season ends. This confirms the amount of barley left as a carryover will be slightly less than the five-year average and significantly less than last season.
Questions are being asked how Brexit will affect UK’s trade outside the EU and, so far this season, a third of UK barley exports have gone to countries outside the EU. Similarly, 30% of wheat imports and 35% of maize imports have been sourced from third countries. Furthermore, almost all, in fact 97% of all UK imports of soyabeans are from outside the EU.
These figures highlight the importance of non-EU trade to both UK cereals and oilseed growers and processors alike.
UK wheat and barley exports during May were at their highest combined level since May, 1997, and both crops are coming close to beating current 2015/16 UK export forecasts.
Total wheat exports now stand at 2.57m tonnes with full season total expected to reach 2.75m tonnes. Yields need to exceed 2015’s record 9.0 t/ha to avoid a fall in GB wheat production in 2016 due to a lower planted area.
With a five-year average yield of 7.9 t/ha and a planted area of 1.8m ha, harvest 2016 could see a production of 14.1m tonnes of wheat which would be the lowest GB production since 2013/14 when it was nearly 12m tonnes.
Over the past five years, GB yields have ranged from 6.7-9.0 t/ha giving a potential range of 12.0-16.1m tonnes of production.
Britain’s wheat area is benefitting from a boost from the fall in sterling following the Brexit referendum vote as the pound equates to €1.18. The fall in the pound has meant UK wheat has become more competitive against other exporting countries competing in the world market place.
Freight rates have also reduced, which means commodities from the UK have become cheaper to export. In some cases, it has become cheaper for US buyers on the east coast to import UK stocks rather than buy from elsewhere in the US – last May, alone, 63,000 tonnes were sold to the US from the UK.
Competition is increasing, though, especially from Ukraine and Russia where harvesting is underway and good yields are being achieved.
In the EU-28, wheat yields are forecast up slightly to 6.10t/ha which leaves yield 4.6% over the five-year average but down 2.9% year-on-year.
In France, the soft wheat crop has taken another substantial hit with good/very good conditions reduced to 42% compared to 76% last year. The proportion of the crop in bad/very bad condition sits at 26%, compared with only 6% last year.
With uncertainty surrounding both quality and yields, forecasters have reduced production down as far as 30m tonnes compared to 40m tonnes in 2015/16 which equates to 7.1t/ha down from 7.6t/ha last year.
November’s Liffe feed wheat futures are up £3.20 on the week to £126.05, though oilseed rape futures are down £2. November, 2017, wheat futures are up £1.80 to £133.95.
World wheat production has been increased by analysts from 730.8m tonnes to 738.5m tonnes. Global wheat usage is increased by 13.3m tonnes and world end stocks are forecast to be down 4.1m tonnes to 259.2m tonnes.
The US maize crop is currently in its best condition for 20 years. Following concerns when temperatures hit a four-year high, the outlook is for wetter and cooler conditions across the US plains and Mid-west.
EU rapeseed production is now forecast at the lowest level since 2012 with output in some countries, forecast at more than a five-year low.