8 August 1997

Farmers kept waiting as maltsters stand off

FARMERS arent selling malting barley – which is just as well, because maltsters arent buying it.

What little is changing hands is showing a premium of anything between £5 and £25 over feed samples. Stock carried over from last season, pre-harvest contracts and the chance of cheaper deals on the Continent have prompted buyers to stand back.

"Maltsters are playing a waiting game," says Robert Leachman of the Malting Barley Company.

Reports of poor-quality samples arent helping either. Like others, Mr Leachman has seen high nitrogen levels, high screenings, splitting and pre-germination.

Farmers, meanwhile, are operating a "starvation policy", hanging on to what crops they have cut. With yields a little lower than last year, some have more bin space.

In the limited market, maltsters are talking about premiums between £10 and £25 above the £70/t ex-farm at which feed samples were trading earlier this week.

Farmers, meanwhile, cant rely too heavily on the export trade to support values. "What with the currency issue as well, its not that easy to get a boat across the water," says Mr Leachman.

Elsewhere, analysts also point to the effects of the strong £. They remember a year ago, when the malt market was nearer £130/t.

As one Wilts-based trader says: "Just about the only thing that could firm the UK market now is if bad weather hits Scotland and Denmark."n