26 November 1999

Concern over large rise in grain rejection rate causes unease

By Amanda Dunn

CONTRARY to previous trade suggestions grain rejections are significantly higher than normal this season, with insect troubles adding to grower woes.

But there is a strong regional slant and some merchants are getting more loads tipped than others, partly due to closer co-operation with buyers, it is suggested.

"Its still horrendous, there are still plenty of rejections," stresses Richard Whitlock of Banks Agriculture. "As a company we are seeing as many as 12 a day compared with just one or two in a more typical year."

Insects are particularly troublesome. "We are seeing an explosion of insect activity. As many as one- third of daily rejections are due to bugs."

Peter Jones of Rank Hovis confirms rejections are up. "In an average year we would expect a rejection rate of 0-5%, probably nearer five. This year it is well over 5% and in extreme cases as high as 10%."

Rejections are highest in the south and south-west where weather hit grain quality, he notes. "Notwithstanding this, we are still seeing rejection rates well above normal in the north and Scotland."

Mark Hughes, wheat director at Allied Mills, says rejection rates are up from about 3% last year to 3-5% this year. "Rates vary according to merchant. Current figures range from 0-19%, with some of the higher figures coming from smaller merchants."

Although neither Mr Jones nor Mr Hughes report higher than normal insect infestation, merchants are seeing a marked increase. "Were definitely seeing more problems with bugs," confirms Glencore Grains Angela Gibson.

"We are now experiencing higher infestation levels, particularly in feed wheat going for export," agrees Cargills Andrew Bury. "To come within the terms of contract, shippers have to be very watchful and mindful of the possibility of grain infestation, particularly on long trips to warm countries."

The cost of rejections is rising, adds Glencores Robert Kerr. "Farmers can expect to pay around £20/t for an infected lorry – £5 redirection to store, £5 out of store, £6-8 fumigation and now, due to TASCC regulations, sanitisation of vehicles."

One Midlands haulier had five out of 66 wheat loads rejected last week. He puts the cost of sanitising a lorry at £100, including lost haulage time. In a more normal year just one or two loads are rejected per week, he says.

But while many struggle, Northants based miller Heygates says rejections are fewer than last year, partly due to a good supplier relationship. "We choose our suppliers because they can sort the good from the bad," says George Mason. &#42