A new deep water grain export facility at Southampton should allow “significantly more” wheat and barley to be exported from southern counties this harvest, according to Grainfarmers.

The firm’s joint £1.5m investment, backed by Solent Stevedores and Associated British Ports, features a refurbished 15,000t quayside grainstore and loading facilities for ships up to 50,000t capacity.

It provided another strong foothold alongside existing facilities at Portbury and Ridham and reduced the need for expensive road haulage to ports further afield, Grainfarmers southern director, Elved Phillips said.

“The price of fuel means we can’t afford to be moving grain by road across to East Anglia, so we’ve got to create a local home instead. We’ve always had a presence in Southampton, but until now we’ve been sharing facilities. Having our own facility means we’ll be able to manage our own export programme.”

An increased cereals area following the 0% set-aside ruling and generally good-looking crops meant there should be more grain available for export this year, Mr Phillips added. “There’ll probably be a surplus of 3m tonnes of wheat and 300,000t of spring barley.”

Demand could also be boosted by wet weather in France and lack of rain in Denmark and north Germany, which had raised quality concerns, particularly for malting barley, he said. “We’ve built up some good European contacts for malting barley, in Germany in particular, so we could be in a very good position this year, providing crops fulfil their potential.”

Winter and spring barley area could increase further next year, due to the crop’s relatively low nitrogen requirement and decent contract prices, making the need to find new markets even more important, he said.