15 August 1997

Growers opt to store not sell barley

BUYERS for malting barley remain few and far between, prompting farmers to close the barn doors and hope for price rises later in the season.

Quality remains a problem, with traders reporting variable nitrogens, high screenings and skinned grains.

And reports abound of rejected samples, especially on forward-contracted tonnages, some of which have been worth £140/t.

This compares with the £10/t premium over £70/t feed that malting barley was typically making in the middle of this week.

With a flat market and a big carry-over of stock, buyers have been far more rigid on applying quality specifications, says Peter Limb, NFU cereals committee chairman.

"They dont want to pay the forward-contracted prices unless they have to."

Forfar-based farmer Mike Cumming – who has contracted his spring crop on "harvest uplift" – fears buyers are delaying entering the market, allowing harvest pressure to build up and push spot prices down.

"If the spot price is driven down, contract prices will follow."

Robert Leachman of the Malting Barley Company, points to competitive prices and good-quality crops in France, Germany and Denmark, which have left crops "trapped" in this country.

The strength of the £ has hit exports, although it has shown signs of weakening recently, dipping to DM2.90 on Wednesday.