5 September 1997

£80m drop in value for Scots cereal crop

SCOTLANDS cereal crop will be worth £80m less than last year, according to Alan Whiteford, chairman of the Inverness-based Highland Grain co-operative.

"Our 55 members will be receiving £1.5m less than last year for their malting barley due to lower prices and reduced yields. Multiply that up for about 3000 serious cereal farmers in Scotland and you have an industry loss of about £80m.

"At the very worst of the BSE crisis there were never losses of anything like that level, yet there has been little publicity about the current crisis in the arable sector. It is almost impossible to overstate the gloom," said Mr Whiteford.

Mike Cumming, manager of Lour Farms at Forfar, said it was a harvest best forgotten. "Last year we averaged £135 for 1500t of malting barley. This year the price is £80-£85, so our loss of income is around £75,000," he said.

Scottish NFU cereals convener, Douglas Morrison, said the union did not yet have an accurate picture of the drop in cereal farm incomes. "There has seldom been a year when there has been less enthusiasm for harvest and that is all to do with low prices," he said.

lThis week has seen wheat prices drift back from last weeks gains to about £81/t, though there is a wide range depending on quality. There are reports of shippers switching to better value Danish wheat, selling their UK commitments back on to the home market.

Farmers did sell a little spot wheat on the back of last weeks rise, but anything with decent specific weights is being held back, hoping for a stronger market to come.

Milling wheat premiums have improved again, with Group 1 now worth £22-£24 over feed, and 11% Soissons and Rialto at about £16 over. High specific weight Brigadier is worth £5 over feed. &#42