We live in uncertain times. Dangerously uncertain, in fact, especially when it comes to farming, food prices, and financial inflation.
Experts say we could be looking at a 14.5 million tonne UK wheat harvest this year. Better than last year but still not reaching its full potential. And very much dependent on the weather.
It comes amid a gloomy global outlook. Initial forecasts by the US government suggest global wheat production will amount to 775 million tonnes for the 2022-23 cropping season – the first fall for four years. Published by the US Department of Agriculture last month, the figures were worse than expected and prompted an immediate spike in world commodity prices.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – the breadbaskst of Europe – has made an already precarious position worse. Ukraine wheat production is expected to fall by one third this year. On top of that, weather woes in the USA, Canada and India have made an already bleak situation worse.
World cereal stocks are expected to remain stubbornly tight. Wheat stocks at the end of the 2022-23 marketing year are forecast to drop to 267 million tonnes – a six-year low that is smaller than previous estimates of 272 million tonnes.
At the same time, it is costing more to produce wheat. Eye-watering levels of ag-inflation have seen diesel prices more than double and fertiliser prices almost quadruple in the past 12 months. Fortunately, the increase in grain prices has offset these increases. For now.
The one saving grace in all of this is that politicians are finally taking food and farming seriously. Without farmers, nobody gets fed. And that is why food production should be at the heart of UK agricultural policy, rather than an afterthought.