experts call for bushel weight replacement

John Shirley

Following the chaos of harvest 2012 in Ireland, both the traders and users of grain want a replacement for bushel weight as the determinant of grain quality and grain price.

Addressing the Irish Tillage and Land Use Society (ITLUS) last week, leading grain trader and feed merchant Jimmy Brett, of Brett Brothers, Kilkenny, said that bushel weight (as in kg per hectolitre or Kph) was not the best measurement of grain quality and that the industry will have to find an alternative.

His call was backed by Teagasc pig expert Dr Peadar Lawlor, who claimed that Near Infrared Spectrophotometry (NIR) was a better measure of grain quality, while being equally convenient and fast to measure as Kph. Dr Lawlor cited pig growing trials to back his criticism of the Kph regime.

The comments at the ITLUS meeting were made against a backdrop of the yield and quality slump of the 2012 harvest. The penalties for low Kph grain were added to the losses that farmers had already endured due to forward selling.

Mr Brett claimed that 60pc of the 2012 wheat tonnage and 40pc of the barley tonnage was forward sold. At an average gap of €50/t between the forward price and the eventual harvest price, this represents a shortfall of about €45m in returns to cereal farmers in autumn 2012.

The Kilkenny-based grain trader suggested that forward selling and trading in grain futures were poorly understood. He suspected that the volatility in grain prices was exacerbated by currency and hedge fund speculators. Given the importance of grain to global food security, he called for political regulation in this area.

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