28 December 2001

Know local markets for cereals

TOP priority when picking a spring cereal variety is to know what your local market wants, says HGCAs Gerald Mason.

Perversely, for some spring crops, that will be even more important this year as sowings return to normal or even less. Minimising the haulage cost will be crucial to make the most of the premium opportunities, he says.

Fellow HGCA economist Julian Bell says for central southern and south-west barley growers that means targeting an export market. "Optic is one of the few UK varieties that is well-known on the continent," he says

Thats echoed by Grainfarmers malting barley trader Robert Leachman. Of the new potential malting varieties, Cellar looks to have more export potential, he adds.

"New Farm Crops have done some development work on the Continent with it, so it is more likely to move through Southampton."

But that is by no means certain, nor is its domestic market. Like Tavern, it only has provisional IOB approval at this stage.

"I do not feel Tavern is a barley for the south – it is a Central or East Anglian barley."

If growers in the south do grow a variety that only has outlets in East Anglia and the north then typically they will face a £5-£6 haulage discount, he says.

In Scotland export markets are also important, but dormancy problems must be overcome. In most cases that will mean putting barley through a merchant store. "For export variety choice will be crucial," says Mr Bell.

Glencore Grains Adrian Fisher says Optic, or possibly non-RL variety Prestige, are the preferred export varieties.

"Prestige could be the new pan-European barley," he says. Another plus is that it is early, which could make it a suitable replacement for Prisma. "Prismas malting markets have gone and it is not easy to export, so I would not grow it unless it is for feed."

Optic is still regarded as the best distilling variety, requiring sub 1.5% nitrogen, but for export above 1.6% nitrogen is the specification.

Mr Bell suggests spring oats are worth a look as the crop area has been eroded in recent years, creating a tight supply situation.

"But they need to be on a contract, with the right variety. If you are near one of the oat mills then you have a logistical advantage," he adds.

Growers planning to plant spring wheat also need to have worked out their markets in advance. With less likely to be grown, fewer mills will plan to use them in the grist, he suggests. &#42

&#8226 Check out local homes.

&#8226 Which variety and spec?

&#8226 Next nearest outlet?

&#8226 Risk if miss spec?

Conference dates

The HGCA and MAGB are running malting barley conferences, which are free to levy-payers, in Cambridge on Jan 30 and Edinburgh on Feb 7. For details contact HGCA on 020-7520 3948 or e-mail: fiona.shorey@hgca.com