Wheat yields lag in East Anglia

Cereal growers across East Anglia are reporting lower wheat yields than last year as the combines roll.However, many crops have only just become fit to combine, according to grain merchant Stephen Howlett.

Cereal growers across East Anglia are reporting lower wheat yields than last year as the combines roll.

However, many crops have only just become fit to combine, according to grain merchant Stephen Howlett.

"It is quite strange, because many crops are not as fit as they ought to be. The spell of 10 days of reasonably dry weather has not brought them on as quick as people would have thought," said Mr Howlett, regional manager for Grainfarmers, based at Bressingham.

With oilseed rape and winter barley completed, attention is now focused on the wheat, for which secondary growth is proving a problem in many crops, according to Mr Howlett.


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A delayed start to the harvest was followed by oilseed rape yields that had been substantially down, although winter barley yields and quality were only slightly below par. "Barley is usable, but not outstanding," he added.

In many crops, the secondary growth has caused a problem as a result of the drought earlier in the season followed by two months of heavy rain.

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"Though still too early to call, the indications are that wheat yields are 10-15pc behind last year. Quality, how-ever, looks all right although proteins are a little lower," said Mr Howlett.

Even so, prices had risen and held remarkably firm in recent weeks. "We're looking at £140 ex-farm for October feed wheat and £145 for next March/April. The market, basically, has just surpassed anybody's expectat-ions. It is just amazing," he added.

But many farmers had sold forward when prices moved last autumn.

"A lot of grain has been sold forward at between £80 to £85 per tonne. I would think that 60 to 70pc of farmers have sold something badly wrong

and, at the time, it looked very encouraging.

"All I ask is that everybody handles themselves because a deal is a deal. The message is: let's get through it and try and make the averages better on what they've got left to sell," he said.

Arable farmer and pig producer Robin Ellis, of Manor Farm, Wellingham, near Fakenham, said some of his wheat had not been much to write home about. "It's all very well talking about the high prices but quite a lot was sold forward last year. We've had a bit of a struggle to do three tonnes an acre where we should be doing four," he added.

"The straw was quite green even though the moisture content was about 14pc. Last August, we were taking wheat at 20pc in the barn."

At Worstead, Gavin Paterson said he had managed to combine "a good chunk" of wheat but the yield was about half a tonne down on last year.

He said light land had fared better than the heavier ground, where the water could not get away so easily.

Grain merchant Gleadwell reported that prices had continued to rise on lower yield reports in the UK and the EU and had reached a 14-year high. "We estimate the UK crop at circa 14m tonnes, leaving a surplus of less than 1m tonnes for export," said a spokesman.

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