It really has been a triple whammy of a harvest year.
Firstly, the unusually heavy rain in the autumn of 2019 meant that many farmers could not plant as much winter wheat as they usually would. A lot of what was planted then did not do well in waterlogged soil. February saw relentless rain, ending up being the wettest on record, which delayed spring planting.
The spring was very hot and dry (great for all of us on “Lock Down”) and this caused drought stress in many areas, making it hard for the crops to take up nutrients from the soil, and limiting growth.
After the warm and dry June and July, harvest started very well for many. However, the rain, five weeks ago, has impacted on quality. This is significant, as there was a far greater area of later developing spring planted crops, much of which was still in the fields, uncut over that period.
In addition to quality declining, the same is happening with yields. Early drilled wheat was achieving 10.5 tons per hectares (4.25 tons per acre), with more recent crops only making on an average of half of that figure.
As such, wheat prices have increased. Feed wheat prices were £167 per ton (last week), having been far lower this time last year at £120 per ton. Milling wheat prices have also gone up by about 20%.
The price of flour and bread, as a consequence, is set to increase after what could be the worst wheat harvest in decades. There have been predictions that wheat yields are down by up to 40%, and as a result some millers have already increased flour prices. A no deal Brexit could push prices up even further.
If you notice that your daily loaf increases in price over the next month or two, you will know why!