Reduced supply will see straw prices remain at €100/ac
Straw prices will continue to top €100/ac for the foreseeable future farm consultants maintain.
With the overall area of spring and winter barley back 20pc since 2014, Tipperary-based tillage advisor, PJ Phelan, claimed that reduced supply and increased demand meant prices should remain strong. Last year straw averaged around €110/ac as a combination of low yields and strong demand, as a result of the summer drought and fodder shortages, drove up prices.
Mr Phelan pointed out that the area planted to barley had fallen from 215,000ha to 165,000ha over the last five years. He said the consequent drop in the tonnage of straw available to farmers would inevitably drive up straw prices.
While the increased returns from straw have been welcomed by growers, John Geraghty of Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) cautioned that the loss of organic matter from tillage ground, and the consequent requirement for additional fertiliser, was rarely factored into the value of straw by farmers.
Soil organic matter levels have fallen 50pc in continuous tillage ground over the last three decades but this cost is often forgotten when putting a price on straw, Mr Geraghty told a cereal growers meeting in Clonmel.
"Tillage farmers have been selling straw, and its contained carbon, for years now at too low a price and have been buying back in extra nitrogen and compound fertiliser - with no contained carbon - to replace it," the lecturer in land management at WIT told growers.
"In the vast majority of situations when straw goes out the farm gate it's gone for good - the resultant manure or compost rarely if ever comes back. Tillage farmers are losing on both sides of the equation, so no common sense is being applied here at all," Mr Geraghty said.
He estimated the value of carbon in the straw at €60-70/ac - based on current EU Emissions Trading prices of €20/t for carbon. A further €20-25/ac is required to replace the P and K losses, leaving little or no allowance from the current straw price for other nutrient losses.