Despite the headlines, a clear picture of the harvest has not yet properly emerged. Coronavirus distancing measures have meant that sample taking and analysis from farms is proceeding more slowly than usual; when combined with the very variable mid-late August weather, this has resulted in more uncertainty than normal.
We do know, however, that it will be small with many predictions around 10 million tonnes – down from 16 million tonnes last year. A crop of 10 million tonnes would represent the largest season-on-season drop (% and actual tonnage) in UK wheat production since records began in 1892.
It seems likely that both yield and quality will be variable.
The smaller UK crop and lack of farmer selling have pushed delivered prices for bread wheat in the benchmark region of North West England up by nearly £50 per tonne (30%) compared with 2019. The possibility of an import duty of £79 per tonne being applied to wheat from the EU from Jan 1 2021 simply adds further pressure to the market meaning that a big import programme this autumn seems inevitable.
More clarity will be sought on tariff policy as negotiations on future trading arrangements with the EU progress in the next few weeks.
There has been quite a bit of media interest in this subject, and Paul Munsey did a great job of explaining the situation on BBC news. nabim has also been keeping government informed of the situation throughout the summer. We will continue to seek clarity on tariff policy as negotiations on future trading arrangements with the EU progress in the next few weeks.