14 July 1995

Early samples point to quality barley harvest

By Philip Clarke

NEW crop barley prospects are looking buoyant as early samples point to a high quality harvest.

Although it will be a couple of weeks before the market really gets going, some speculative purchases this week put Puffin at a premium over feed of about £40/t, in line with crops grown on pre-season contracts.

"The weather of the past two weeks has raised optimism that we are facing a high yield, good quality, low nitrogen crop," said one crop consultant. "The dry, but not too hot conditions have been perfect for gentle ripening – so necessary for good skin quality."

This has been born out in some of the early samples in Dorset, where Puffin of 1.5% to 1.6% nitrogen has been seen. Specific weights came in at over 70kg/hl, and screenings were surprisingly low at less than 2% over a 2.25mm sieve.

Similar results were reported from Norfolk, while in Wiltshire even feeders like Plaisant were achieving 1.65 to 1.75% nitrogen. Yields of over 7.4t/ha (3t/acre) have been seen for feed barley, while 6.1t/ha (2.5t/acre) is not uncommon for Puffin.

Although maltsters have not been rushing to the market, preferring to use their contracted supplies first, they should not be long in coming given the low levels of carry-over stocks and the high demand for malt to the end of the year.

"The market has swung through 180í since last year," said financial director of Pauls Malt Alan Pryke. "World demand is now growing, there have been closures on the Continent and there is no new capacity. If anything, there is a malt shortage and we are relatively bullish."

This bodes well for growers, although some merchants were suggesting values could soften if the good yields seen so far are maintained.

On the feed side, there has already been some slippage as sterling has strengthened, wheat values have fallen and barley has had to move to maintain its discount.

Although spot feed barley was fetching anything from £108/t to £112/t this week to meet specific compounder demand, the "as available" price for next week was quoted at £104/t.