Interest in cereal drying kit and handling equipment is on the rise as producers weigh up the odds that inclement weather could have an impact on quality of grain in the run up to harvest.

With arable margins already squeezed, the pressure to contain costs or increase the value of marketable grain has never been more acute.

But even with rising energy costs, whether oil, gas, derv or electricity, producers know it’s essential to present grain in near-optimum condition (typically 14-15% moisture) to buyers or face stiff penalties.

Enquiries for mobile drying equipment, in particular, have sparked interest from growers looking to attend on-farm sales in the next few weeks.

Hardly surprising given the current conditions, remarks one auctioneer whose clients’ outlook has been nearly as gloomy as the Met Office forecasts in recent weeks.

With merchant handling charges of a suggested £4.50/t and at least £2.50/% moisture removed, a damp harvest could add considerably to variable costs for the arable sector.

Having on-farm facilities to dry grain could help contain expenditure with prices for used mobile driers starting at £2500 being common.

Double that figure for modern, high throughput units, he adds.

Merchants yards are also yielding to demand for grain handling kit (see Machinery and Grain drying and storage in Marketplace).

Producers can harvest any number of 10-12t/hr driers advertised with forecourt prices pitched at around £4500 for mid-1990 models.

Depending on the demand for capacity, offers in recent weeks include all or part of an established industrial grain handling facility albeit with the caveat of removing off site in a limited timeframe.

Labour and transport from Essex would add to costs.

For those thinking of investing capital into under-floor drying systems prices start from £2.50/sq ft for drive-on DIY installations; temporary ducting and ambient air fan blowers for less.

But aside from purchase costs, running costs will be an area of concern for many growers.

Not surprising then that those attending this month’s Cereals 2006 event at Nocton, Lincs, will find energy costs under scrutiny with several suppliers vying for business.

Yielding to demand, more equipment is appearing on-line (don’t forget to try the on-line Marketplace at www.fwi.co.uk for the latest deals).

Auction sites are also worth checking periodically with smaller, specific items such as grain moisture meters appearing, like the rain showers, intermittently.