Farm Ireland

Monday 11 December 2017

Importers make hay as straw supplies down

It has been predicted that straw costs will rise to €46-48/bale
It has been predicted that straw costs will rise to €46-48/bale
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

Straw prices have rocketed and stocks are being imported from Britain this week as Irish traders struggle to keep up with demand from livestock farmers.

A surge in orders from the drystock and dairy sectors over the last month has seen stocks of straw completely cleaned out in some parts of the country.

Traders are now looking to import supplies from Britain, with one operator in south Kildare souring 8x4x3 bales in Cambridgeshire in England's southeast.

A sharp lift in prices over the last three weeks and tighter local supplies have made straw imports an option. The cost of 8x4x3 bales of barley and wheaten straw has reached €45/bale delivered into the west. This is up from €40/bale earlier in the year.

However, as stocks continue to tighten, some suppliers predicted that straw costs will increase to €46-48/bale.

Farmers and traders maintained that stocks of barley straw have been totally cleaned out in the east and southeast, with particularly strong demand for scarce supplies of round bales (4x4).


From €15/bale to €17/bale is being paid for good quality round bales in the east, with the delivered price in the west and south at €25-27/bale. However, bedding quality straw is still available for €21-23/bale.

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Sourcing stocks of round bales is proving very difficult. One western trader said he had an immediate market for 10 truckloads or up to 600 round bales.

"It is just a matter of getting it," he explained. "There are plenty of buyers but it is proving very difficult to source good quality straw."

Oaten straw was available in the west and south this week for €41/bale (8x4x3) delivered - with growers being paid around €30/bale - but traders said prices were continuing to harden as supplies tightened.

The straw price lift has come as a welcome boost for cereal growers following the disastrous harvest.

However, few have been in a position to benefit from the price surge as many were tied into the contracts with buyers.

One tillage farmer in South Tipperary said he was lucky to have a stack of 8x4x4 bales of barley straw in a field. "A lad came on and took every one of them for €40/bale," he said.

The cereal grower has a contract with a mushroom composter for the majority of his wheaten straw. He admitted that the price for this was low but he was hopeful of pushing it up.

Traders attributed the sudden lift in straw prices to the continuing weather difficulties in the west and the recent arrival of CAP direct payments.

"A lot of farmers hadn't the money to pay for straw up that [receiving their Basic Payment] and were putting off purchasing," one southern trader explained. He maintained that the inability of farmers to pay would keep a ceiling on prices.

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