Farm Ireland

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Tillage men warned not to bank on good times rolling into next season

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Following predictions that this year's harvest will be the biggest in history, farmers are being urged to tread carefully for the upcoming season.

The warning comes on the back of an increase in Glanbia's grain prices for 2011. Growers will be paid €156/t for green spring feed barley and €164/t for feed wheat. All prices quoted are VAT exclusive (5.2pc) and are based on green grain at 20pc moisture content. Winter barley and equine oat contract growers will receive €166/t plus VAT.

This year's final prices equate to an increase of €9/t for spring feed barley and winter barley and a €7/t increase in feed wheat price compared to last year's harvest. However, the price paid for equine contract oats jumped €24/t.

The IFA's grain expert, Fintan Conway, said that rail strikes in Russia combined with a wet and broken harvest on the continent kept prices firm throughout this year's harvest. However, he warned that the current high prices were unlikely to last.

"Sowings will be up internationally and global stocks-to-use ratios for wheat are climbing back towards the tipping point they reached in 2009 when prices crashed," he told a packed attendance at Teagasc's tillage forum last week.

However, he also said that maize stocks are still low and harvest predictions are suggesting lower than expected yields. In the absence of unexpected weather or financial market upsets, Mr Conway said that these two factors may help to underpin other grain prices for the medium term.

The meeting was also treated to presentations from a variety of industry stakeholders who outlined how they were aiming to add value to Irish grain.

Boortmalt's Tom Bryan said that the huge improvements on grain quality achieved by their 515 malting barley suppliers over the past 12 months had opened up unsolicited export markets for the first time in Irish history.

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However, he was reluctant to confirm that these markets will return or grow next year since the wet harvest situation in Europe had helped make Irish product more attractive this year.

Mr Bryan said that existing growers would have first preference to any additional tonnage requirements next year.

Glanbia's Murt McWey told farmers how Glanbia was attempting to add value to farmers' grain by developing niche lines such as contracts for equine and food-grade oats, milling oats and wheat and growing grain for seed.

"We have linked up with US-based company Sturm who are marketing our oats as oatmeal in the US and we hope to build on volumes in this over the coming years," he said.

John Flahavan of Flahavan's explained how his company was also attempting to break into the US market through the rebranding of their traditional oat-flakes lines.

"We have also developed our organic oats line from a mere 50t 10 years ago to 3,000t this year," he claimed.

Teagasc's Eimear Gallagher also outlined how the latest research in Ashtown had identified ways of improving the health properties of breads that traditionally rely on wheat by incorporating former waste fractions from barley and oats.

"The middlings or screenings from barley and oats are actually much higher in beta glucans, which are reported to have a beneficial impact on the incidence of heart disease, cholesterol and type-two diabetes," she said.

Growers were also given presentations on the latest results from the Department of Agriculture seed wheat trials, along with agronomy advice on growing winter oilseed rape.

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