Defra downgrades wheat figures

Official figures released by Defra this week saw close to a further half a million tonnes shaved off the UK’s wheat harvest estimate – giving the lowest overall production for 40 years.

With official estimates now standing at 9.685 million tonnes, the figure also represents a fall of more than 40% on the 2019 harvest.

The changes are due to falls in both the area and yield estimates. Defra has now pegged the total wheat area in 2020 at 1.387Mha - 23.6% below 2019 figures.

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The organisation said that the main shift in overall production had been due to updated yield estimates with the UK average yield now pinned at 7.0t/ha, down from the 7.2t/ha estimated in October.

“This is a stark decline from the five year average of 8.4t/ha. With the new area and yield in mind, England accounts for an estimated 433Kt of the total 475Kt decline from the 10.1Mt figure published in October,” said Defra.

In Scotland, total production of the main cereal crop, barley, increased year-on-year by 7.4% to 2.086Mt – but in England, where the planting of higher yielding winter varieties had shrunk, the reduction was more than enough to see the UK’s overall figure fall.

Alex Cook, an analyst with the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board said that having a sub-10Mt wheat crop confirmed would increase import requirements and could support domestic prices. He added that less barley also reduced exportable surplus and eased pressure on domestic barley prices.

However he added on-going uncertainties over trade deals and tariff impositions still hung over the market.