By FWi staff

OILSEED rape growers are likely to suffer another aid payment penalty next season, given that the area planted this autumn is at least as high as last year.

The UK oilseed price has risen for the third year running, and the record sown area of 506,000ha (excluding set-aside) this autumn is a staggering 14% up on 1997.

Farmers are warned that the cut in payments could be as high as 50-60%, although more set-aside plantings could reduce this.

The area is likely to go over target next year as well, and there is a possibility of penalisation on the over-production of industrial rape.

Firm oilseed prices – compared to grain – this season have encouraged farmers to plant rape for its increased returns, said Heike Hintze of the Home-Grown Cereals Authority.

But imported oilseed from Australia, which has seen a bumper harvest, could halt any upturn in prices for UK farmers, she added.

Many producers are hoping that heavy rain in South America could cause a shortage and prevent prices here from falling too far.

But, in the longer term, this seasons increased area and the prospect of big oilseed harvests around the world are likely to allow world stocks to recover.

That could pressurise prices in the 1999/2000 marketing season, unless demand increases.

Then again, people said the same thing at the beginning of 1998 – and prices remained generally firm throughout the year anyway..