By Robert Harris

EXPERTS are divided over whether cereal growers should start selling new-crop wheat and barley now to avoid a possible future drop in prices.

The continuing strength of Sterling and good crop prospects in the UK and abroad mean cereal returns will remain at or even below current levels, according to Gerald Mason of the Home-Grown Cereals Authority. Its better to sell some new-crop grain now, he says.

“It is difficult to see anything positive in the market. Growers should not bank on Sterling weakening, and we are looking at a possible record crop in the UK.”

But Cargills Chris Toft cautions against haste. Prices revolve around quality and poor weather in some of the worlds main grain-producing countries could force values up, he maintains.

“It is foolish to talk numbers at this stage. Farmers may want to wait and see before selling.”

Robert Kerr, of Glencore Grain, warns that predicting currency movements and crop quality is fraught with danger. But, he says, “Farmers that came early to the market last year found it easier. It does not pay to chase yesterdays market.”

Ministry December census figures confirm a 1.5% rise in winter wheat plantings, which will produce 16.3 million tonnes at an average yield of 7.9t/ha – slightly above the record 1996 crop.