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Cereal growers face €30-40t hike in seed prices

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Cereal growers are facing a €30-40/t hike in the cost of winter wheat seed, and industry sources have warned that supplies are tightening fast.

Seed for winter barley is €15-20/t dearer than 2019 but assemblers are confident that adequate supplies will be available.

Prices of around €540/t have been agreed by growers for winter wheat seed, but some farmers said better deals have been done. Farmers claimed that winter barley seed is available for a cash price of around €500/t. However, merchants said the price was closer to €515-510/t.

There are mixed messages from the trade regarding seed availability.

Seed crops were badly affected by fusarium and sprouting at the end of the harvest, with many of the crops harvested during the second half of August being rejected.

This has hit the tonnage of winter wheat seed particularly, with the availability of some popular varieties being negatively impacted.

Seed industry sources have attributed the increased cost of seed on the higher harvest prices this year, more expensive dressings, and the fact that some of the grain had to be dried twice because it was harvested at high moisture levels.

The general consensus is that sufficient stocks of winter barley seed have been secured, but assemblers warned that supplies could tighten if there is a repeat of the 80,000ha planted for the 2019 crop. Traditionally around 65,000ha of winter barley are planted.

Merchants report strong farmer interest in winter wheat this year, with the €20/t differential over barley being reflected in increased seed demand.

Around 57,000ha of winter wheat are normally planted, but this figure is expected to rise this year.

“There’s a big pull on winter wheat this year,” one assembler said. “I don’t know if we’ll have enough of the most popular varieties,” he added.

“Lads are being told to hold off sowing for another week or two but they are keen to get going,” one merchant in the south-east said.

“The experience of last year’s poor sowing season is one factor. The other is that growers want to close the book on the 2020 harvest, and the best way they can do that is by driving on into the next one.”

Meanwhile, yields from beans have been described as “disappointing” by growers. Yields are generally back by between 0.5t/ac and 1.0t/ac. Yields of 1.5t/ac to 2.0t/ac are the norm this harvest, back from a high of 3.0t/ac last year.

“This year proves that beans are not a runner without the protein subsidy,” said James Hegarty, Cork IFA grain chair.

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