UK sees record arable harvest, but could experience lower prices

This year’s harvest could see one of the UK’s largest wheat yields on record, according to the National Farmers Union (NFU).

However, it adds that this could cause concern amongst farmers who are worried about the affect this could have on the price of their produce.

The latest NFU survey has revealed a six per cent wheat yield rise from 8.6 tonnes per hectare last year to 9.1 tonnes per hectare this year.

This figure combined with the area planted, indicates that the UK wheat total may reach 16.68 million tonnes for 2015, higher than last year’s figure of 16.61 million tonnes.

The survey also shows that the estimated Winter Barley yield is 7.5 tonnes per hectare, a year-on-year increase of 4 per cent increase on the previous year (7.2 tonnes per hectare) and well above the 10-year average of 6.5 tonnes per hectare.

Similarly, Oilseed Rape has seen a boost in its yield. This year NFU survey estimates a yield of 3.8 tonnes per hectare, compared to 3.6 tonnes per hectare in 2014.

Mike Hambly, NFU combinable crops board chairman, said: “It is great news to see the nation has had such a successful harvest for wheat. However, in a global context we have seen a sequence of good harvests and grain stocks are currently comfortable,” he said.

“Cereal prices are global and like most commodities are currently low. For example, we’ve already seen prices taking a 30 per cent tumble over the past two years, similar to our friends in the dairy sector, and costs of production staying put.”

Due to this bumper harvest, many farmers will face the prospect that grain prices will fail to cover the cost of production and they will record a loss for the second year running.

Initial estimates for 2016 suggest that this may be the situation next year as well, meaning that some could see no profit from grain crops for three consecutive seasons.

Mike Hambly added: “The value of the cereals sector has more than doubled in the past five years to nearly £3.5 billion. The importance of our part in producing food for the nation, contributing to the economy and creating jobs cannot be underrated.

The NFU has called on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to support farmers by helping them to cap costs on production.