Weather batters Britain's winter wheat crop

June 13, 2013 at 12:18 PM

LONDON, June 13 (UPI) -- A rainy autumn and a cool spring has decimated Britain's wheat crop, turning an export opportunity into an import expense, the experts said.

"Normally, we export around 2.5 million metric tons of wheat, but this year we expect to have to import 2.5 million," said a senior crop analyst at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, a trade organization.

The Guardian reported Thursday Britain has experienced the coldest spring temperatures in 50 years, following a fall that was the rainiest on record.

Forecasts now peg harvest expectations at 12 million metric tons or less, the newspaper said.

The lower figures are the result of farmers faced with tough choices turning over acres planted with wheat to get a barley crop going before it is too late for the fields to provide them with any return for the year.

With farmers giving up acreage to barley, a National Farmers Union poll indicated that there will be 30 percent less acreage planted in wheat this year.

Historically, Britain is the third largest wheat producer in the European Union and a wheat exporter. This year, experts expect Britain will have to import wheat for the first time in more than a decade.

Analysts expect food prices will rise. One breakfast cereal company, Weetabix, has stopped producing some of its cereal brands due to a poor harvest, the newspaper said.

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