20 February 1998

Grower push for quality could offset wheat glut

By Robert Harris

HIGH quality winter wheat varieties with good export and milling potential have taken a bigger slice of the wheat area this season, latest National Institute of Agricultural Botany seed statistics confirm.

Some milling premiums are set to fall next harvest as a result. But farmers will gain access to export markets, easing a potential glut from the rise in overall wheat plantings this season.

NABIM group 1 and 2 varieties have taken 28% of the winter wheat market in England and Wales. That is 9% more than last year, near trade estimates. Group 1 varieties include Hereward and Abbot, group 2 consists mainly of Rialto, Charger and Soissons.

Better yields are the main reason for the rise in group 2 types, says Dalgetys David Neale. "Growing wheats with better quality is sensible. We estimate a crop of 16m tonnes next harvest, so at least 5.25m tonnes will need to be exported. But look after them well – to compete against French and German wheats, good bushel weights are vital."

Farmers have realised the need for value added crops, says Ian Pinner of Banks Agriculture. "Group 2 varieties have feed-type yields. If you do not get the premium, you still get the output."

That is good news; the bigger area and a good harvest could see group 2 milling premiums drop to £5/t at best, half to a third of this seasons levels, he predicts.

"That is entirely possible," says an Allied Mills spokesman. "Fingers crossed they wont be as expensive as this year."

Export premiums could match those from millers, says Alan Almond of British Cereal Exports. "It depends on the quality of the Continental crop. Even if premiums are lower, export volume sets the tone of the UK market, in effect giving an overall premium." Group 2 wheats are easier to sell than hard feed wheats, he adds.

Despite NIABs figures showing the weight of certified seed falling by 9%, it and the trade agree winter wheat crop area is up about 5%. A 10% rise in farm-saved seed and lower seed rates account for the difference.

&#8226 Peas and linseed are leading the way in the spring seed market. Peas are up about 7% on last year, and linseed has gained 10%, largely due to the decline of the winter type, says Dalgety. Optic and Chariot barleys are selling well. &#42

Peter Jones loads up with Chariot spring barley at Langtoft near Peterborough, Cambs. Autumn drills were also full of quality varieties, which ensure ready markets for grain, says the trade.