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Defra estimates lowest wheat production figure in 40 years

Reductions have been seen for UK wheat, barley and oilseed rape production in Defra’s final estimates for the 2020 crop, updating the provisional figures published in October.

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Wheat saw the most notable decline, with UK production now estimated at 9.658 million tonnes, down 475,000t from October’s estimates. Against 2019, this is a 40.5 per cent decrease in production year-on-year and would be the lowest UK wheat production figure since 1981, says AHDB.

 

Changes to the production figure arise from reductions to both the area and yield estimates. The wheat area is now estimated at 1.387mha, down 28,000ha from October, and is 23.6 per cent below 2019 figures.


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Decline

 

Primarily the decline in the wheat production estimate comes from updated yield estimates, says AHDB. Defra now pin the UK average yield at 7 tonnes/ha, down from 7.2t/ha published in October, a stark decline from the five-year average of 8.4t/ha.

 

Barley has also seen its production figures cut, now estimated at 8.117mt from 8.363mt in October. This estimate remains above the five-year average of 7.2mt, reflecting the large increase in spring barley production figures year on year.

Barley

 

The decline in production can be mainly be attributed to changes to English area and UK winter barley yield figures, says AHDB. The English spring barley area was cut 21,000ha from October, giving a decline of 121.8,000t using the yield figure of 5.8t/ha estimated by Defra.

 

Scottish total barley production increased year-on-year by 7.4 per cent to 2.086mt. Scottish area and yield both increased by 3.5 per cent and 3.2 per cent respectively year-on-year. The area was estimated at 302,000ha, the highest since 2015, whilst yield was estimated at 6.9t/ha.

 

The decrease in winter barley yield from 6.4t/ha estimated in October to 6.2t/ha in the final release, coupled with an area cut of 6,000ha totals a decline of 89,000t in English winter barley production.

Prices

 

The cuts to wheat and barley figures will come as a surprise to some, and will mean reduced domestic availability, according to AHDB. Having a sub-10mt wheat crop confirmed spells an increase in import requirements and could support domestic prices. A slightly smaller barley crop lowers the UK’s exportable surplus and eases some pressure on domestic barley prices, it says.

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