Farmers in England are reporting a significant downturn in wheat and oilseed rape yield caused by the recent drought.

A survey of National Farmers Union members carried out over the past two months predicted wheat yields in 2011 would be 14% down on the average output to around 6.5 tonnes per hectare – the lowest for more than 20 years.

But the NFU said the downturn was unlikely to raise prices for retailers.

“At present it is thought that impact on food prices will be small,” said NFU economist Clare Rowntree. “Many farm gate prices are heavily dependent on world prices. This is especially true of cereals prices.”

She said that as less than 10% of the cost of making bread comes from the price of wheat, “any impact of the climatic conditions experienced globally will also be small”.

The east of England is the worst affected area, with the region experiencing its lowest rainfall during the first half of the year for a century.

Winter oilseed rape yields are expected to be down 9% on the five-year average. But the NFU is optimistic about its long-term performance as plantings are up on the five-year average.

While retailers are expected to be unaffected by the English drought, farmers are facing a price hike in livestock feed.

“In areas affected by water shortages, there will be some farmers who have to buy in more feed in order to make sure that their animals have enough to eat if their fodder crops also suffer from poor yields,” Rowntree added.

Read more
Ukraine lifts grain export quotas (26 May 2011)
Wheat prices to soar as drought deepens (20 May 2011)
Worldwide wheat harvest to bounce back this year (23 March 2011)