Hay and straw prices hit a new high this week, as the legacy of last year’s wet harvest continues to be felt.

In many areas prices are up to £20/t higher than last year, with the best quality products demanding strong premiums, Graham Lawman of the British Hay & Straw Merchants Association said.

Merchants’ prices for big bale hay and barley straw were typically £45-60/t ex-farm, while big bale wheat straw was nearer £35-45/t ex-farm, he said. The south-west had the highest prices, with big bale barley straw there fetching around £61/t ex-farm (£45/t in January 2008) and wheat £47/t (£35/t last year).

Cambridgeshire-based auctioneer James Crawford from Alexanders said conventional hay and wheat straw bales were selling for around £30/t more than this time last year, while big bale wheat straw averaged £50.60/t at the firm’s last auction, around £11/t up on last season. “We’ve had a shortage due to last harvest’s conditions and there’s also been strong demand during the recent cold weather,” he said.

“The market is really picking up, but as a merchant there’s no way I can afford to pay £50/t for straw,” Mr Lawman said. “Whether these high prices continue depends a lot on the weather and how long winter lasts. Perhaps £50/t will make arable farmers think twice about chopping straw at harvest.”