The UK sources 80% of its wheat supply from domestic crops and although the harvest was only 30% complete as The Grocer went to press, quality was good and yields had defied the potential damage threatened by the driest first six months of the year since the 1930s, said the NFU.
Despite commodity analysts this week predicting Ukraine would follow Russia in banning wheat exports, reinforcing expectations of a 10% jump in food prices, the success of the British harvest could not be underestimated in its impact on overall food prices, said Jack Watts, senior analyst at the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board. "It's a relief and has started to calm things down," said Watts.
The Russian ban helped push the price of UK trading wheat up to £190 per tonne this month, and 46% up from last year. That's an even bigger spike than global wheat prices, up 30% to $240 year-on-year.
Alex Waugh, director general of the National Association of British and Irish Millers, said price oscillation was damaging. "Next year, we hope to see a model where farmers are incentivised to grow more wheat and generate more stable prices for consumers," he added.
Suppliers to big bread brands said the implications for UK consumers were more positive than in other countries.
"Longer term, the UK would be better sourcing more wheat domestically as we have a maritime climate with a decent amount of rain, whereas Russia and EU countries have had droughts that have caused prices to rocket," said farmer Lawrence Matthews, a Hovis supplier.
However, while Hovis is now made exclusively with British wheat, rival bakery firms could be more exposed. And retail hikes in the price of bread are still on the way this autumn, earlier than anticipated by industry experts.
Although the lag time for wheat price hikes to the retailer shelf normally takes about six months, Kingsmill owner Allied Bakeries warned retailers and wholesalers to expect price rises on Kingsmill and Patak's naan as soon as October.
One senior buyer said: "They told us they will have to raise the price of Kingsmill as a result of the wheat price increases and other cost hikes. They said it could happen as soon as October, but this seems a bit soon seeing as they normally buy British and Canadian wheat, so the Russian harvest will have no impact at all. You'd think they had some wheat stored as well."