While 2017-18 has seen a record global wheat crop of 758.2m tonnes, increasing reliance on wheat yield rather than area and potential lack of availability of stocks could bring tighter supplies.
Speaking at the AHDB Milling Wheat Conference, held in Cambridge in eastern England, AHDB senior analyst Amandeep Kaur Purewal said the area used by top exporters to grow wheat had stagnated, with a growing reliance on yield to support production and meet demand.
She said: “This increases the risk to supplies from bad weather.”
Tighter than it looks
The global wheat stocks cushion is also lower than headlines might suggest, warned Ms Purewal.
“The stocks to use ratio of the top exporters is 25-26%, a far cry from the level a decade ago [36%],” she said.
“If we include China, the world stocks-to-use ratio is falling.
“The proportion of stocks China holds is increasing and they are not necessarily accessible.”
‘Lowest crop since 2013-14’
In the UK, the Defra/AHDB Early Bird Survey shows a continuing decline in winter wheat area with it forecast to decline 2% year-on-year for harvest 2018.
“If yield is at or below the five-year average, we could have the lowest crop since 2013-14,” Ms Purewal added.
“This will leave relatively tight supplies and could affect the exportable surplus.
“We can’t assume the UK will be a net exporter of wheat. If anything, we are becoming an importer.”