UK’s bumper wheat harvest ‘set to become highest yielding on record’

UK farmers look set to have achieved their highest wheat yields ever this year.

UK farmers look set to have achieved their highest wheat yields ever this year. - Credit: Archant

This year’s bumper wheat harvest is on course to become the biggest yield on record, according to a survey.

A wheat field near Felixstowe just before harvest.

A wheat field near Felixstowe just before harvest. - Credit:

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said the results of its annual survey of farmers showed a 6% wheat yield rise year-on-year from 8.6 to 9.1 tonnes per hectare. With a reported decrease in area planted this year, UK total wheat production is estimated at 16.68 million tonnes for 2015, beating last year’s figure of 16.61 million tonnes.

But the farmers’ lobby group warned that this will only add to the concerns by under-pressure growers, who fear this will increase pressure on a market where food commodity prices are already being squeezed.

“It is great news to see the nation has had such a successful harvest for wheat. However, in a global context we have seen a sequence of good harvests and grain stocks are currently comfortable,” said NFU combinable crops board chairman Mike Hambly.

“Cereal prices are global and like most commodities are currently low. For example, we’ve already seen prices taking a 30% tumble over the past two years, similar to our friends in the dairy sector, and costs of production staying put.

“Many growers are facing the prospect that grain prices will fail to cover the cost of production. For some this will be the second year they have endured such a situation and with forward prices for next harvest also below cost of production some could see no profit from those crops for three consecutive seasons.”

He said there were a number of “real opportunities” wher we believe government should act to help improve the competitive position of the industry.

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“It is vital for departments across government to take a closer look at how regulation impacts arable farmers,” he said.

“This includes the Department for Transport on their UK cap on crops used for biofuels to bring them back into line with EU targets, the Financial Conduct Authority on essential access to the futures markets for coping with volatile prices.

“We are also encouraging the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affaris (DEFRA) to support our calls for access to the plant protection products that safeguard our yields from loss to disease, weed and pest competition; and for a review of EU fertiliser tariffs that we believe are driving production costs up.”

Grain analysis results were also looking very encouraging, indicating that the quality of crops has been good, as well as yields.

“Most quality crops were harvested before excessive rain and meet specifications for milling and malting,” he said.

“However, we are aware some growers in certain areas did suffer deterioration in quality with harvesting delayed by the wet weather in August causing their crops to fail to meet some processors’ requirements, leading to a consequent downgrading to a lower specification and reduction in price.

“The value of the cereals sector has more than doubled in the past five years to nearly £3.5billion. The importance of our part in producing food for the nation, contributing to the economy and creating jobs cannot be underrated.

“We’ve also seen some very welcome increases against last year’s excellent yields in most of our other major arable crops, despite some difficult pest control challenges, particularly with insect damage to oilseed rape crops during the growing season.”

According to the NFU survye, the estimated winter barley yield is up 4% to 7.5 tonnes/hectare, compared to 7.2 tonnes/hectare in 2014 and a 10-year average of 6.5 tonnes/hectare.;

The estimated spring barley yield stands at 5.9 tonnes/hectare, which is very similar to last year. The 10-year average is 5.4 tonnes/hectare.

The estimated oilseed rape yield is up 5.5% to 3.8 tonnes/hectare, compared to 3.6 tonnes/hectare in 2014 and a 10-year average of 3.4 tonnes/hectare, but just below the 3.9 t/ha average in 2011.

The 2015 total wheat production figure is below the record level in 2008 when 17.23 million tonnes of wheat was produced and also that of 2000 when 16.70 million tonnes of wheat was produced.