Britain may be a net importer of wheat

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Britain looks set to become a net importer of wheat in 2012-13 for the first time in more than a decade following a poor harvest this summer, according to figures issued by the Home-Grown Cereals Authority Oct. 15.

The HGCA, issuing its first supply and demand estimates for the current season, saw imports rising to 1.7 million tonnes, up 87 per cent from last season.

There is also expected to be a surplus of just 750,000 tonnes that could be exported or held as free stock.

“This is an historically low surplus and suggests very limited export availability,” the HGCA said, noting that last season the U.K. exported 2.55 million tonnes of wheat.

Earlier on, Britain’s farm ministry estimated this year’s U.K. wheat crop at 13.31 million tonnes, down 12.8 per cent from the prior season, with yields falling to a 23-year low.

“Yields have been affected by the poor weather this year which led to high levels of disease during spring and summer along with low sunlight levels during the grainfill period,” the ministry said.

Britain has been a net exporter of wheat each season since 2001-02.

HGCA noted that the decline in U.K. wheat production was exacerbated by “historically low opening stocks” of 1.50 million tonnes resulting in “poor domestic supplies.”

The Netherlands and Spain have in recent years been the two most important customers for U.K. wheat.

Britain was a net importer of wheat in July, the first month of the crop marketing year, with exports of 33,673 tonnes and imports of 135,917 tonnes.

Traders in recent weeks have cited an increase in the volume of Baltic, German and French wheat coming into the U.K. to meet the harvest shortfall and ensure flour millers get the quality of wheat they need.

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