Growers' fears mount over British grain surplus

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Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Close to a quarter of the winter barley crop has been cut in south Tipperary, Kilkenny and Cork despite progress being hampered by widespread rain.

Yields are generally coming in at 3.6-4.2t/ac, with up to 4.5t/ac being reported in exceptional cases.

However, more variable yields have been reported in the North East of the country.

Although growers said that loads from around headlands were struggling to come in under 20pc moisture, as low as 16-18pc was reported over the weekend, with crops bushelling at 60-64kph.

Yields from some September-sown crops appear to have taken a hit because of BYDV, but the general consensus is that crops are performing well.

With broken weather forecast for the remainder of the week, cutting is likely to be stop-start and progress is expected to be slow.

There is still no confirmation on prices as merchants report no firm orders from the feed trade. Forward green prices for the harvest still remain around the €145-mark for barley and €156/t for wheat. Worryingly, it is predicted that Britain will have a grain harvest of over 15 million tonnes, which will leave them with a significant surplus this year.

There are growing fears that British grain exporters will attempt to take advantage of the current weak sterling, and the threat of a possible Brexit crash-out on October 31, to offload stocks across Europe over the coming months.

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However, industry sources suggest that most of this British grain will go to Spain and Portugal, where drought conditions are set to reduce the barley harvest by 27pc compared to last year.

In contrast, a 7pc increase in output is forecast for the French winter barley crop, with the spring barley tonnage expected to be 27pc ahead of 2018 due primarily to a jump in sowings.

Overall, a 4pc increase in world grain production compared to 2018 is being forecast, with the EU predicting an 11pc production increase.

The Matif for December has wheat currently trading at €180/t.

The Irish Grain-Growers group (IGG) claimed there was the potential for grain prices to change significantly between now and September when the first harvest prices are set.

"We have two heatwaves happening now, one in Europe and one in North America; grain prices could bounce yet, favouring the farmer before harvest prices are fixed in September," the IGG stated.

Meanwhile, there has been very little activity on straw sales. Growers maintained this week that straw was being bought at €18-20/bale for 4x4 bales ex-field.

However, traders insisted that prices were moving back to €15-16/bale.

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