Drizzly conditions have brought combines to a halt near Aylsham, Norfolk, where farmers have cut about half their winter barley.
Andrew Dewing, chief executive of Dewing Grain, said very few crops were coming into store dry.
“Most are coming in at between 15.3% and 17% moisture – the better equipped farmers and central store members are cracking on, while others are waiting for moisture levels to drop.
“The premiums for malting barley are so good – at about £40 over feed – that it would be foolish to wait for perfect weather, because it might not come.
“It’s a bit dull and grotty here – we had enough drizzle to stop combining this morning (26 July).”
Nitrogen contents were extremely variable, even within individual samples, said Mr Dewing.
“There are some very high nitrogen contents of up to 2.6% appearing randomly anywhere, but there are some very good Pearl and Flagon samples at 1.6%, which I think will be fought after.
“We tested one sample off the field at 1.78% nitrogen – when it was delivered into store it tested at 2.06% – that’s a phenomenal variance within a field.”
Only about 70% of samples were passing the malting grade, and with lower than average yields, and potentially problematic spring barley due to regrowth, malting barley could be very tight this year, he added.
“If you take the very low yielding fields, of 2.5t/ha (1t/acre) into account, they will pull the average markedly down.”
Farmers were just starting on oilseed rape, with about 10% cut in the area. “We’ve only taken about 800t into store. But yields are very good – it’s going to be the crop of the year.”
Winter wheat and spring barley harvest was still some three weeks away in most places, he added.