Confident outlook for UK grain in year ahead
11:32 28 May 2014
Â©Lee Blanchflower Photography 2011
Hopes are high that an expected surplus of UK produced wheat could help provide significant export opportunities for East Anglia growers.
Visitors to a HGCA meet the exporter day at the Ipwich grain terminal of Nidera UK were told that following the poor quality grain of 2012 and low availability due to reduced plantings and variable yields of 2013, UK grain exporters are confident of a better scenario for 2014/15.
David Eudall of Nidera UK, said just under 0.5 million tonnes of wheat was available for export this season, with the previous year not faring much better.
“There was around 730,000 tonnes available in 2012/13 but in 2011/12 the UK had over 2.5 million tonnes available for export and hopefully in the coming season we will return to these sorts of levels,” he said. “Current predictions are for a UK wheat crop of 15-15.5 million tonnes in 2014 and this should leave an exportable surplus of close to 2.0 million tonnes.”
Typically, Spain and the Netherlands with a demand of around 0.6m tonnes and 0.7m tonnes respectively are the biggest export destinations but Belgium, Germany, Ireland and Portugal are also keen on UK produced wheat.
Pricing has got to be competitive, but many countries rate UK produced wheat highly so there is always demand both within the EU and further afield, he explains.
“The limiting factor for exporting UK wheat outside of the EU is often the moisture content where most third world countries require max 14.5% or even 14.0% and this is often difficult for growers to achieve consistently.”
“But if you have low moisture wheat, the markets of Saudi Arabia and North Africa can be a lucrative option.
“The South East of England always has an exportable surplus and this is often the area most likely to be able to produce wheat of the right quality and moisture for more distant markets.”
Working from offices on the outskirts of Ipswich and with a dedicated Grain Terminal at Ipswich port, Nidera UK trades around 1.8 million tonnes of grain every year and purchases 1.4 million tonnes direct from farm.
With a fleet of 35 trucks operating out of 8 centres and storage of 160,000 tonnes at various locations throughout the UK, the company pushes up to 0.9 million tonnes of grain and other commodities through its Ipswich terminal every year.
On the busiest days, 400 vehicle movements can take place at the terminal with boats as large as 14,000 tonnes loaded in 12 – 14 hours.
According to Sarah Mann, export manager for the HGCA, some of the organisation’s key objectives are finding a home for surplus production, looking at ways of adding value to it and developing protocols to open up new markets – one of the latest being China.
One of the biggest successes of this approach in recent years has been UKS specification wheat, she says.
“UKS is a blend of soft extensible varieties well known throughout the EU for their biscuit making and bread blending characteristics. UKP in contrast is a blend of semi-hard endosperm varieties to suit both EU and non-EU bread making.
“UKS varieties are always in high demand as they are useful for blending with hard high protein wheats and the UK’s specific maritime climate gives them some much sought after unique properties.”
And knowing what you are growing and where it could potentially go are two of the most important aspects of making the most of export markets, she says.
“Firstly you need to understand the local market. For example, growers within 30 miles of a port are ideally located to regularly supply the export market.
“If you’re thinking of export, consider end markets when selecting varieties – ukp or uks – and discuss with your merchant which varieties their overseas customers prefer. Furthermore, test your grain and ensure your merchant knows you have met the export specification.”
Where possible, grain intended for export should be stored separately to ensure the integrity of the UKP and UKS specifications.
“All told Wheat exports account for around 16% of production in most years whilst with barley it’s around 15%,” Sarah Mann says.
“In 2011/12 cereal and oilseed exports were estimated to be worth nearly £1.0Bn so it’s a significant part of UK production with serious opportunities for growers able to meet the required specifications.”