By FWi Staff

WINTER barley drilling could be down by as much as 25-30% in 1998, as low yields and poor prices overshadow this years harvest.

The move away from barley has been encouraged by the opportunity for farmers to allocate more set-aside in the coming year, said Francis Morden of Andersons consultants. The minimum set-aside for the coming year is 10%, but producers have the opportunity to increase this to 50% at the same payment.

The value of set-aside in 1998 was £302/ha and Mr Morden is confident that it wont be any less in the coming year: “In the following year it is expected that voluntary set-aside could go up to as much as 100%, which is a very attractive option for many farmers at present,” said Mr Morden.

“It would be possible for farmers to sell up their machinery and loose all labour costs. With set-aside at 50%, this would still be possible by moving over to contract farming.”

There was a slight increase in interest in barley seed sales this week, said David Neale of Dalgety, Newmarket.

“It is the just-in-time farmers who are purchasing at present. However, sales of winter barley are down on last year due to a combination of set-aside, mediocre harvests and a good year for spring barley.”