15 September 2000

The rising star of breakcrops?

By Andrew Swallow

Soya is set to become as important a breakcrop as oilseed rape, reckons one crop marketing company.

"Oilseed rape was the last large scale crop breakthrough in the UK, and this is the next," says merchant Robin Appel.

This autumn about 2000ha (4900 acres) across 120 farms will be harvested in the UK. The company is confident it will exceed 10,000ha (24,700 acres) next year.

While most of the crop is for seed at present, demand for home-grown, fully traceable soya is strong, says Mr Appel. Last week UK soya was worth £135/t ex-farm.

"Demand is increasing faster than supply and next year we expect it to trade at £150-155/t. But first and foremost we want seed crops."

Those will earn a £40/t premium, though seed costs are £30/ha higher at £165/ha. No pea or bean crop may have been grown for two years and no soya for five.

All non-seed sales so far have gone to BOCM at Selby. But Mr Appel is talking to supermarkets that are keen to see UK soya used as an identity preserved feed by their poultry suppliers.

The problem is one of scale. Just one large poultry supplier would use 10,000t of soya in about three months. "In the UK we use 2m tonnes of soya a year. About 1m tonnes is imported as beans and the rest is imported as derivatives of some sort."

Difficulty in sourcing GM-free soya from elsewhere is fuelling demand. While Brazilian produce may pass as GM-free now, it will not in a couple of years time, Mr Appel maintains.

Even without the GM-free guarantee growers can at least expect world values for their crops. In the past five to ten years that has been between £110-220/t. "Typically it is about £25/t over oilseed rape."

Key to the success of soya in the UK is the daylength neutral variety Northern Conquest and associated agronomy package, says Mr Appel. Yield typically ranges from 2-4t/ha (16-32cwt/acre), harvested in the second half of September. Combining is fast, and little trash is left.

"You could combine in the morning and direct drill wheat into the field in the afternoon," says technical director Edward Willmott. &#42

"Everything you grow, we will buy back," says soya backer Robin Appel. Demand for the GM-free, fully traceable crop is said to be buoyant.

SOYASTATISTICS

&#8226 EU worlds biggest importer.

&#8226 UK uses 2mt/yr.

&#8226 2000 crop 2000ha.

&#8226 2001 crop over10,000ha?

Gross margin prospects

Gross margin prospects

Gross margin prospects

Feed Seed

£/ha £/ha

Yield (t/ha) 3.1 3.1

Price* (£/t) 160 195

Output 496 604

Variable costs

Seed 135 165

Fertiliser + innoculant 50 50

Sprays 80 80

Total 265 295

Area aid (oils) 293 293

Gross margin 524 602

*World price increase anticipated from todays values. Area aid at oilseeds rate assumed paid in full, £:k = 0.67.


Feed Seed

£/ha £/ha

Yield (t/ha) 3.1 3.1

Price* (£/t) 160 195

Output 496 604

Variable costs

Seed 135 165

Fertiliser + innoculant 50 50

Sprays 80 80

Total 265 295

Area aid (oils) 293 293

Gross margin 524 602

*World price increase anticipated from todays values. Area aid at oilseeds rate assumed paid in full, £:k = 0.67.