Arable News

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Big yields will help carry lower crop prices

Grain marketing and farm inputs business Frontier recently hosted a ‘Harvest Review’ at its Lincolnshire HQ

Grain marketing and farm inputs business Frontier recently hosted a ‘Harvest Review’ at its Lincolnshire HQ. Dominic Kilburn reports.
Significant yields from this year’s harvest means that there will not be a shortage of grain next year and flat prices will remain a dominant feature of the markets for the time being. Those were the opening thoughts of Frontier grain director Simon Christensen (left) speaking at a ‘Harvest Review’ hosted at the company’s Lincolnshire base earlier this autumn.
He said that, globally, wheat production was significantly up this year while the total UK wheat crop was likely to top 16.5mt by the time final figures are confirmed.
“That does leave a big exportable surplus of around 3mt to be shipped and, with the strength of sterling in recent months not helping, exports are behind where they typically might be at this stage of the year,” commented Mr Christensen.
“We certainly have the quality but we don’t have the buying interest at the moment that we need for the UK exports to connect with. Baltic nations and others, like the French, are selling into places we might normally sell, for example at this time last year we were selling into Africa but the French are exporting there this year,” he explained.
“We don’t see an upside to prices at the moment with the surplus of crop in the UK and globally, so our advice to growers is that if they see any kind of uplift in the market price then they should sell into it,” he stressed.
“The farmer is currently, understandably, a reluctant seller, but he has enjoyed better yields which will help carry the lower prices.”

More milling wheat
Mr Christensen suggested that growers were likely to put more milling wheat in the ground this autumn on the back of good yields and good proteins achieved at harvest by the Group 1 frontrunners. “Skyfall captured some very good yield and proteins through good husbandry,” he added.
“With a milling premium currently 10-20 over feed wheat, there will be more milling varieties in the ground this season than last which, in turn, may put pressure on the premium as traditional and non-traditional milling wheat growers consider these newer, high yielding Group 1 varieties.”
In summary, he predicted that nabim Group 1 and Group 4 varieties would increase in area grown for 2015-2016 season, while Group 2 and Group 3 varieties would lose ground.
“When prices are low like they are at the moment growers are going all out for yield,” he added.

Barley yields better
He said that barley yields in the UK had been better than originally anticipated, particularly so in winter crops. As a result, he expected both winter and spring areas to increase this season; barley providing the additional agronomic benefit of helping out with black-grass control.
“There is a decent surplus of barley of which feed is relatively competitive although it’s difficult to move it to ports at 100/t or below, but that can change very quickly,” he said.
“With the distilling market facing a downturn at the moment as whisky exports to China and India slow down, so the demand for spring malting barley has also slowed,” he continued. “The quality of the malting crop is good but, again, the strong sterling is not helping with exports which is the missing piece of the jigsaw.”

On the pulse
According to Frontier pulse manager, Andy Bury (left), as much as 30 per cent more bean crop area was harvested this year compared with last, producing a significantly bigger crop.
He suggested that yields in the south and east were average, due to some hot weather in the middle of the summer, with yields increasing the further north they were grown.
“Winter beans in the south of the country were bright with good colour and although the threat from bruchid was variable, it was also manageable,” he said. “Like the yields, colour also improved further north and a late harvest for some didn’t affect quality significantly.”
Mr Bury highlighted that, conversely, the French crop was of poor quality and yield which would likely have a detrimental affect on the French area put down to beans for this season.
“There is a great opportunity for the marketing of UK beans although one can’t rule out the competition from crops in the Baltic states which increased by 25 per cent this season. “That said, buyers are never sure of the quality that they are going to get from the under-developed markets such as these,” he added.

Two UK markets
According to Mr Bury, there is a significant increase in domestic demand for UK-grown beans for animal feed, with compounders using them as a replacement for soya beans in cattle rations.
“This looks to be a sustainable market going forward with good domestic demand as well as exporting options for human consumption,” he said, pointing out that feed beans currently had a premium of 15/t over feed wheat, while beans for human consumption were worth 20/t more.
“Because of CAP reform, the three-crop rule, a requirement for more spring cropping due to black-grass and a strong domestic market, I still think we will see another bean planting increase for this season,” he added.
The outlook for peas was not so encouraging, commented Mr Bury, with a large crop harvested this year (15 per cent up) combined with a carryover of last year’s.
“Demand for micronizing is down and value for good quality blue peas at 150-160/t or below.
“There is competition from France, the Baltic countries and Canada. It’s a tough market and so the outlook is not so good,” he concluded.

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