Farm Ireland

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Sell grain during season to tackle fluctuating prices


Pat Minnock

Pat Minnock

This year's winter barley harvest has been slow to get going. Some crops were harvested last week in the south of the country and reports are variable. It appears that the better crops will be the later ones to be harvested.

There has been a long grain-filling period this year, which will stand to yield. I have had reports of yields of 3-4.25t/ac with good KPH of 66 or more.

It is interesting to look back on prices for barley that were appearing at the start of last year's harvest. Initial indications were for €120-125/t, while prices eventually paid were closer to €130-140/t. The indications this harvest for green barley are currently €153-€160/t. The big question is what will the eventual price be?

The current price is significantly less than what was available to growers two months ago if they had opted to forward sell their grain. Some green barley contracts were done in May for up to €190/t, which looks very attractive now. However, this simply proves how volatile prices can be and why growers should consider selling their grain throughout the season. This allows a range of prices to be achieved and invariably leads to a better overall price.


Many growers become annoyed at harvest time, just as they are about to take out their combine, that prices automatically appear to drop. However, we have learned over the years that this is normal practice. Growers should be prepared for this and forward sell a portion of their grain over the season.

Obviously, harvest pressure is currently at play to weaken harvest prices, but it is not as simple as this as there is much speculation and varying reports emanating from the major grain players across Europe, Russia and America to drive grain prices upwards and downwards at different times of the day.

For example, over a day and a half period last week, the price of barley fluctuated by €15/t. Grain traders are currently indicating that prices vary every hour, never mind everyday, so the grain trading situation is currently very erratic.

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In these situations, it is probably best to hold off selling grain at the moment if storage is available, or try to agree with your merchant or co-op to store your grain for future sale. Most merchants and co-ops are offering this facility.

It is my opinion that the worst time to sell your grain is at harvest time. Delivering grain over a weighbridge in trailer loads will inevitably lead to huge variations in prices.

Loads can vary several percentage points in moisture and KPH, which will itself lead to different prices for grain from the same field. Moistures vary throughout any harvesting day. The 'trapping' of grain in advance of delivery, while inconvenient in many cases, can lead to a better overall price if uniformity of analysis can be obtained.

High moisture grain of more than 17-18pc moisture should not be stored for any length of time as this leads to heating and grain deterioration. Farmers do not need to be reminded that input costs have been significantly up this year, which means that every extra euro obtained for your grain produce is essential.

It would appear that the pricing structure put in place in the spring by Boortmalt might well boost malting barley prices this autumn. Indications so far, with more than 50pc of the year gone, is that malting barley should make more than €200/t green at harvest time. The final price will obviously depend on price movements for the final quarter, particularly August.

The other good news for some grain growers is that the price of oilseed rape is much more stable. Prices of €400/t dried are still available. This is one crop that the larger cereal growers looking for a break crop should seriously consider for the next season.

Little spraying remains to be undertaken for this season. Some late spring wheat has had significant aphid infection recently and should be treated with a systemic insecticide. If it is more than three weeks since the last fungicide was applied, a half-rate Triazole plus Morpholine would be beneficial at this stage.

Most winter oilseed rape crops are probably desiccated at this stage. If this is still to be undertaken, the simple guideline is that if there are black seeds and most of the balance of the crop is brown in a randomly selected sample of pods, the correct stage has been reached for application of glyphosate.

Farmers will also recall from last year that prices for straw made €75-90/ac on the flat. There is no doubt that the prices for straw for this harvest will be significantly less, with early indications of €40-€45/ac on the flat.

This is the minimum that should be accepted for straw as straw incorporation will contribute about €40/ac in fertiliser value at current fertiliser prices.

Pat Minnock is the Carlow-based president of the ACA and a member of the ITCA.

Indo Farming