With the first combines likely to roll in next dew days (weather permitting), the area of cereals to be cut on GB farms has been published in the 2013 AHDB/HGCA Planting and Variety Survey. As a result of the poor planting and growing conditions this year, farmers have been asked to submit their intended harvest area rather than the area planted.
The survey reveals that the area of wheat likely to be harvested in GB is down 19% at 1.61 million hectares (1.99 million hectares in 2012), while the barley area is up 26% at 1.23 million hectares (976,000 hectares in 2012). The figures suggest the total area under wheat and barley is down 126,000 hectares on last year.
“This season has been the most severe since 2001 when set-aside was still in place,” said AHDB senior analyst Jack Watts. “However, 12 years on with no set-aside to fall back on and relatively strong grain prices, the most economic scenario for the majority of growers has been to plant spring crops in place of what would have been winter crops.”
“Yields still remain uncertain, however, especially following the recent hot and dry conditions and ongoing concerns about soil compaction.”
No part of GB has escaped the fallout from the difficult planting conditions of 2012. The reduction in wheat harvest area ranges from a fall of 12% in Eastern England though to an estimated 26% drop in the South-west. However, in absolute terms, the largest declines are seen in the East Midlands (a fall of 66,000 hectares), Eastern England (63,000 hectares) and Yorkshire (55,000 hectares).
The low GB wheat area for this year makes it very likely the UK will remain a net importer of wheat in 2013/14 as it was in 2012/13.
“Although the fall in wheat harvest area is extreme, this is unlikely to come as a huge shock to the industry or the market which has been preparing for such a scenario for some time,” added Mr Watts. “Higher levels of carry over stock from the previous season may also partly offset the low level of production.”
Driving the GB barley harvest area is a 54% increase in spring barley to an estimated 922,000 hectares for 2013, with plantings in England forming the majority of this. In many cases, these plantings would have been made where it was impossible to get winter crops in the ground.