Barley growers fear prices slump as buyers 'aren't biting'

Picture taken August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin
Picture taken August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin
Spring barley
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

FARMERS with stocks of dried barley are struggling to source buyers for their grain, and there are growing fears that prices could fall by €35/t from the post-harvest high.

Prices have eased back from €220/t to €205/t in recent weeks but growers fear that they will fall further, as it is increasingly difficult to move stocks.

"There is absolutely nobody biting," one grower told the Farming Independent.

The slide in barley prices has been blamed on a combination of cheaper US maize imports and lower demand for feed this spring because of the depressed market for beef and strong early grass growth.

Angry cereal growers contend that the local grain market was further undermined by the import of over 3,500t of British barley before Christmas.

However, merchants argue that this was forward-bought by the trade last summer at a time when meal sales were soaring and the outlook for the local harvest was on the floor.

Merchants maintain that all the Irish barley in stores will be used. They don't expect a significant carryover of product into this year's harvest, but they insist that barley prices will have to come back.

Industry sources say that with maize available for €184/t export, the price of native barley could fall by another €20/t.

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The fact that growers are caught with stocks of grain is somewhat ironic given that the 2018 grain harvest was one of the smallest in a number of years due to last summer's severe drought.

Output was back 100,000-150,000t on 2016 and 2017, with the overall grain harvest totalling 2.2m tonnes, compared to 2.35m tonnes in 2017 and 2.3m tonnes in 2016.

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