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The production of wheat, barley, oats and oilseed rape may be down by four million tonnes compared to 2023, a reduction of 17.5%

Wet weather across the UK looks likely to lead to significantly diminished harvests.

Analysis by thinktank the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit has estimated the production of wheat, barley, oats and oilseed rape may be down by four million tonnes compared with 2023, a reduction of 17.5%.

Compared with the 2015-2023 average, the decline would be over five million tonnes, or 21.2%.

The analysis was based on AHDB crop area forecasts and Defra yield data.

“This washout winter is playing havoc with farmers’ fields leading to soils so waterlogged they cannot be planted or too wet for tractors to apply fertilisers,” said Tom Lancaster, land analyst at ECIU.

“This is likely to mean not only a financial hit for farmers, but higher imports as we look to plug the gap left by a shortfall in UK supply,” he added. “There’s also a real risk that the price of bread, beer and biscuits could increase as the poor harvest may lead to higher costs.”

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The ECIU estimated that wheat production could be down by up to 26.5% compared with 2023, which could have a particular impact on milling wheat used to make bread, as it needs to meet higher quality requirements.

This comes following estimations from UK flour millers last week that the milling wheat harvest could be down by as much as 40%, with warnings this could lead to bread price rises.

“We went through the winter with virtually nothing viable drilled, and while it’s now dry enough to plant some fields, some of them are so bad I don’t think they’ll get drilled this year,” said Colin Chappel, an larable farmer from Lincolnshire. “The situation is very hit and miss.”

Last week, Tim O’Malley, group MD of major supplier and grower Nationwide Produce, warned that challenges posed by the weather were likely to lead to continued availability issues for veg, higher than normal levels of imports and increased prices.

The wet weather is also hampering the planting of spring crops like barley, which may lead to higher costs for brewers and distillers, and ultimately higher beer prices.

“To withstand the wetter winters that will come from climate change, farmers need more support,” said Lancaster. “The government’s green farming schemes are vital to this, helping farmers to invest in their soils to allow them to recover faster from both floods and droughts.”