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Press Release - Concern over supply of UK breadmaking wheat

The second wettest August to February since 1837 has severely limited the planting of wheat in the

UK, with official estimates1 indicating the UK wheat area will be the second smallest since 1980.

Additionally, current prospects for yield also look poor, with prolonged wet weather having damaged

and stunted the development of wheat that farmers were able to plant.

The prospects for the breadmaking wheat element of the crop are even worse, according to UK Flour

Millers head of technical, Joe Brennan.

“The poor outlook for the upcoming UK wheat harvest is going to pose a real challenge. For milling

wheat this is exacerbated by the decline in popularity of high quality breadmaking wheat varieties,

Group 1, which make up the backbone of UK flour milling demand.”

An estimate of breadmaking wheat production for 2024 based off the forecasted area and yields from

previous years (Figure A) indicate the upcoming harvest could be the smallest in over ten years and

down almost 40% on 2023.

The high prices of nitrogen fertiliser, which whilst down from peaks have continued to sit 40% higher

than before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, are also limiting production of breadmaking wheat that

meets quality specifications. This cost as well as weather affected the recent wheat crop, with the

AHDB Cereal Quality Survey2 indicating only 13% of Group 1 breadmaking wheat met the typical

milling quality specification, compared to 33% in 2022.

This is reflected in the wheat market, with the spread between breadmaking and feed wheat prices

since 2023 over twice as high as the average of prior years (Figure B).

Joe added: “We’ll be going into next season very low on homegrown quality breadmaking wheat,

which will make next season even tighter.”

Wheat planted in prolonged wet conditions tend to generate very shallow roots, making it vulnerable

to drought later in the season; weather is set to be a key watchpoint for the coming months. Weather

in Germany will also be closely monitored, as farmers there have faced similarly extreme wet

conditions over the wheat planting window.

“It’s a bit of a perfect storm, as high protein German wheat is normally the substitute for British

breadmaking wheat if we cannot get enough at the right quality in a season. Farmers and millers are

hoping for kinder weather in the months leading up to harvest,” Joe concluded.

Notes to Editors

UK Flour Millers ( is the trade association representing the UK flour milling industry.

There are 32 member companies operating 51 flour mills. Millers use 5 million tonnes of wheat to make 4 million

tonnes of flour each year. In a typical year, 80-85% of the wheat used by UK millers is homegrown.

UK flour is an ingredient in 30% of food products and provides approximately 20% of the nation’s food energy

requirements, playing a critical role in domestic food security.

Figures can be found on the following page. Data for figures can be shared upon request.

Contact: Joe Brennan, Head of technical and regulatory affairs, UK Flour Millers. 020 7493 2521 /



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