Wheat exports from the UK have beaten official forecasts for 2010-11 with one month to spare, raising the prospect of a downgrade to a stocks estimate already pegged at a historic low.
UK wheat exports fell to 75,200 tonnes in May, the lowest of the 2010-11 marketing season, customs data showed.
The figure was also well below the 200,000 tonnes achieved in May last year.
Nonetheless, it took the UK’s total wheat exports in the season to 2.52m tonnes – enough to overtake the official forecast of 2.44m tonnes and with June data yet to be included.
The prospect of more wheat leaving UK shores than had been expected puts a further downgrade on the agenda for the official estimate of inventories as of the close of 2010-11, at the end of June.
The current estimate, of 1.51m tonnes, was described by officials as the tightest "in the modern era".
Indeed, Michael Archer, senior cereals and oilseeds analyst at the Home Grown Cereals Authority, told Agrimoney.com in May that a higher export number makes the balance sheet figures "difficult to add up".
Nor have the extra exports been balanced out by an uptick in imports which, at 66,800 tonnes, were below average levels for the marketing year.
Spanish purchases dry up
The export data showed a second month without shipments outside the European Union, trade which earlier in the marketing year took UK wheat to unusual destinations, such as Turkey and Vietnam, after supplies from the Black Sea were curbed by drought.
Within the EU, shipments to the Netherlands remained firm, at nearly 30,000 tonnes, while those to Spain, at 6,800 tonnes, remained at atypically low levels.
Indeed, Spain imported 570,000 tonnes of UK wheat in the first 11 months of 2010-11, half those of the same period the season before.
Spain, which unlike more northerly countries received ample spring rains, is expected to report a bumper harvest of its own this year, enough to overtake the UK to third place in EU wheat production.