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U.K. Wheat Imports May Be Biggest Since 1978 as Stockpiles Build

July 16, 2013

The U.K. is on pace to import the most wheat since 1978 as buyers increase stockpiles on concern this year’s harvest will be delayed, according to the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board.

Inbound shipments were 2.68 million metric tons from the last marketing year’s start on July 1, 2012, through May, according to customs data distributed today by the Kenilworth, England-based AHDB. Purchases tripled from the same period in the previous season and exceeded the government’s 2.54 million-ton forecast for the full 2012-13 crop year, even before figures for the final month of June are reported.

The U.K. wheat crop’s development is 10 to 14 days later than usual after fields received too much rain and temperatures were below average early in the season, said Charlotte Garbutt, a senior analyst at the AHDB. The nation probably was a net importer of the grain in 2012-13 for the first time in 11 years after the second-wettest year on record cut the previous harvest by 13 percent, government data show. The U.K. may be a net importer again in 2013-14, Garbutt said.

“Last year we had a very low stock situation, so with the prospect of a late harvest, buyers may be carrying bigger stocks because the market is more nervous about running out,” she said by telephone. “U.K. processors have become more accustomed now to using imported products, so it will take them some time to switch back to U.K. crops if U.K. crop quality performs.”

Exports Plunge

Purchases in the first 11 months of 2012-13 were the largest since 1978, when imports were about 3.1 million tons, Garbutt said. Germany, France and Canada have been the biggest suppliers. U.K. wheat exports in the season’s first 11 months plunged more than 70 percent to 666,864 tons from 2.48 million tons a year earlier, customs data show.

The U.K.’s wheat surplus, including domestic stockpiles and grain left over for export at the end of 2012-13, was estimated at 1.29 million tons, according to Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs figures distributed by the AHDB on May 23. That was 34 percent higher than the agency’s March forecast, while below the 2011-12 surplus at 2.64 million tons, according to the report.

To contact the reporter on this story: Whitney McFerron in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at

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