Early UK grain harvest results fan yield, quality worries


Early results from the UK harvest are revealing weak yields, and a drop in barley quality "which has led to worries about the marketability" of affected crops, consultancy Adas warned.

Adas, in its first report on the UK summer grains harvest, said that initial reports on winter barley and rapeseed, early-harvested crops, "suggest that yields… are lower than recent years, with most farmers reporting yields below the far average".

Yield results are coming in at 6.0-6.6 tonnes per hectare, below the 7.0-7.2 tonnes per hectare that farmers were reporting as of late July last year, with increased lodging – ie collapsed crops – denting potential.

"The combination of heavy rains prior to harvest, and thick lush crops, has led to crop lodging, with an estimated 8% of winter barley area in the south and east predicted to have lodged," Adas said.

Producer penalties

And what barley has been reaped has raised questions over crop quality, although Adas highlighted that, with 65% of the UK crop still to harvest, results should be treated with caution

"Early indications are that specific weights are low," the consultancy said, reporting a range of 48-63 kilogrammes per hectolitre for the metric, a key quality specification.

"Specific weights less than 60 kilogrammes per hectolitre have been reported, which has led to worries about the marketability of these crops," Adas said, reporting an average reading for the week of 57 kilogrammes per hectolitre.

Buyers were imposing penalties of up to £20 a tonne on barley presented, with Agrimoney.com hearing of some loads being rejected.

Small kernels

As of late July last year, the specific wheat was coming in at 65-69 kilogrammes per hectolitre.

Meanwhile, screenings this year – ie, the proportion of kernels deemed too small – is running at an average of 7%, up from 3% a year ago.

The UK is a notable exporter of barley, with shipments in 2014-15 of 1.95m tonnes, and reaching 2.57m tonnes in the first 11 months of 2015-16 (to May), dwarfing imports of 140,474 tonnes for the period.

Many of the export cargos comprise malting barley, for which Evergrain has pencilled in a UK exportable surplus of 359,000 tonnes for 2016-17, although the vast majority of these supplies would come from spring crop, harvesting of which has yet to begin.

As for rapeseed, the UK harvest, at 15% completion, has come in typically at 2.9-3.4 tonnes per hectare.

"But there are fewer reports of high-yield crops than in recent years," the consultancy said, adding that yields "at this early stage of harvest are typically 5-20% below average".

Adas said that it was too early in the harvest to estimate crop quality, but it did not early reports from south eastern farms that "seeds are smaller than usual".

Rapeseed worries

In rapeseed too, the UK is a notable exporter - of 416,035 tonnes in the first 11 months of 2015-16 - besides being the fourth-ranked grower in the European Union, the top producer and consumer of the oilseed.

Already, expectations for the EU's rapeseed harvest this year are dwindling, thanks to poor weather in France, and less so, Germany, with the International Grains Council on Thursday cutting by 500,000 tonnes to a four-year low of 21.1m tonnes its forecast for the bloc's output this year.

The downgrade factored in reductions of 300,000 tonnes to both French and German output, to 4.8m tonnes and 4.9m tonnes respectively.

The estimate for the UK harvest was kept at 2.1m tonnes.

Separately, on Friday FranceAgriMer, the official French crop bureau, flagged some stabilisation in the, weak, condition of domestic winter crops, but with spring barley now feeling weather effects.


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