Bringing together the whole supply chain, the AHDB Milling Wheat conference recognised excellence in wheat quality and challenges for the season ahead.
Heygates has already begun importing grain from Germany as the impact of the wet season so far begins to put pressure on the whole supply chain.
George Mason, senior executive at Heygates, told the AHDB Milling Wheat conference: “We are going to have a shortage [of grain], but it is a case of how we get out of the muddle we find ourselves in and balance supply and demand. When things are tight, you have the industrial sector going to barley or maize, reducing some domestic demand. But as far as millers are concerned, there is not going to be enough.
“Group 3 [wheat] will not substitute Group 1 and 2. We have no choice but to import, like we did in 2012/13. We will have to go back to that kind of regime, which brings its own problems.”
Mr Mason added that the variation in cropped area throughout the country is also likely to put ‘tremendous stress’ on transport at harvest.
He said: “It is going to cause distortions in daily flows of vehicles. It just shows you how vulnerable we are to the weather.”
But with forecasts from Russia predicting the second biggest wheat crop on record at 18 million tonnes, the global market will set the tone for domestic wheat prices, as the UK moves towards being an importer, switching to one of the tightest balance sheets since 2011/12.
This was according to AHDB market analyst James Webster, who said: “You would think in a year like we are heading into, prices would be massively elevated. But [ending stocks of] 3.2mt and the global picture will leave us at a point where we are at import parity and the market can only move so high.”
For milling wheat, Mr Webster’s early predictions suggested a 2.7mt crop.
He said: “We are looking at a milling wheat market which is going to need to bring in a lot of imports. If usage stays firm, it is going to lead to a very tight market as we come out of this year.”
Grower Andrew Watts, of Wallington Farms, voiced his concern over the lasting impact this season could have on farm businesses.
He said: “The biggest challenge is not being certain of what we are going to actually achieve for this harvest. Cash is going to be the biggest thing for farmers 12-14 months ahead, with the prospect of a small harvest. The impact of that at farmer level will trickle up and down the chain to our suppliers.”
The Yield Enhancement Network Wheat Quality Award was won by James Perry of Aldburys Farm Contracting, Essex, with a crop of KWS Zyatt yielding 12.6 tonnes/hectare with a protein yield of 1.5t/ha.
The crop, grown on chalky boulder clay and following oilseed rape, had four nitrogen hits with a total N of 294kg/ha.
Mr Perry puts much of his success down to a mild and kind winter, with only about 200mm of rain from October to March.
Receiving the award at the conference, he said: “Following the hot dry summer, the roots went down in search of moisture and nutrients which helped promote yield.”
Mr Perry added that it was ‘all about attention to detail and doing the right things on time’.
He said: “We are a small farm, but have a large contracting portfolio. This means we can invest in up-to-date and large kit.
“We use a self-propelled 24-metre sprayer, even though we only cover 120ha a year on our own farm.
“When the time comes to put on fungicides or other applications, we can go at exactly the right time.”
The Yield Enhancement (YEN) is currently looking into ways in which it can introduce cost of production to the programme.
Dr Sarah Clarke, ADAS crop physiologist, said: “In terms of gross margin, we do not take account of the gross margin and cost of production.
“As YEN evolves, we are looking towards having a category for gross margin and sustainable yield.”