UK wheat production for the current harvest year is estimated at around 14.67 million metric tons, down on the five-year average by 1.5%, with plantings up 3.9%, according to an NFU survey. Winter barley production is estimated at 2.079 million metric tons, down 18.9%, with plantings down 10.1%. Spring barley production is estimated at 3.229 million metric tons, up 3.7%, with plantings up 3.8% on the five-year average.
This year’s NFU wheat yield estimate is 7.4 metric tons per hectare and 5% down on the five-year average; winter barley is 5.8 metric tons per hectare and 9.6% down; spring barley is 5.3 metric tons per hectare with no change on the five-year average. “The key to understanding the impact for farmers from these results is the huge variability in yields we have seen this year, far more than in recent years," said Ian Backhouse, NFU combinable crops chairman. "Some members have seen field or even whole farm record production in 2011, while others have had one of the poorest harvests on record. I believe this year’s overall wheat and winter barley yield decrease was largely due to tough growing conditions last spring, including one of the lowest ever rainfall levels recorded for the first half of the year across the majority of England. However...spring barley performed far better across the UK than was feared, with the rain appearing in time to save [this crop] for most farmers."
According to Backhouse, farmers invested significantly in preserving grain quality. “The Home Grown Cereals Authority reports that wheat quality is very good this year, with a higher proportion expected to achieve full milling specification than for a number of years," said Backhouse. "Many report crops weighing heavier and high bushel weights are partly compensating for lower volume harvested. Following a very dry spring and rains disrupting summer harvest in 2011, farmers invested in grain drying to protect quality and overcame a challenging season.”