The wettest autumn and winter on record have made forecasting prices for the coming UK harvest a highly uncertain exercise, warned HGCA economist Julian Bell, speaking at a PBI Monsanto conference. Bell told the meeting that current forward prices value wheat for the coming harvest at around £75 per tonne ­ £15 per tonne higher than last season. The wheat area is estimated to be nearly 20% lower than last year. "In addition, world wheat stocks are at the lowest level in recent years and are expected to fall yet further. "World wheat consumption however is expected to exceed world wheat production for the fourth year in a row," added Bell. "Higher prices will be required to ration demand and switch feed users to other grains, principally maize." Bell warned that the lower intervention prices and the value of the euro had effectively left UK growers dependent on world prices for any upturn in grain prices. This makes it even more essential for UK growers to grow what the market demands as there is no longer a safety net for those who do not. "With UK grain usage relatively static, production rising due to increasing yields, and imports a threat, it is important for the UK to develop export markets." {{M/E CANNED GOODS }}