21 November 1997

Low bushel weight feed costs dear

HEAVY price penalties for low bushel weight feed wheat are costing growers a fortune and should be stopped.

So says Shropshire farmer David Craig. Growers in his area have sent a resolution to Shropshire NFU asking it to lobby headquarters to seek scientific advice on the feeding value of wheat at different specific weights.

The demand follows SAC work which shows energy values of lighter grains match those from 72kg/hl samples, the current feed wheat standard. "A fair proportion of the wheat around here is 68kg/hl or below. And in Yorks, 65kg/hl is the norm. Farmers are facing deductions up to £10/t, but the evidence shows they are being ripped off."

Mr Craig, who farms 320ha (1000 acres) of cereals at Westwood Farm, Much Wenlock, reckons penalties are harsher since the typical £1.50 a point deduction has remained static while wheat prices have crashed.

NFU HQ spokesman Philip Hudson says the issue of low bushel weights and the scale of deductions has attracted much more comment than in previous years.

"We have spoken informally to UKASTA and there will be on-going discussions. The general view is that bushel weight needs vary according to the market for which the grain is being used." For mono-gastrics (pigs and poultry) they may have to be higher than for ruminants.

"Certainly some deductions have been horrendous," agrees NFU cereals committee chairman Peter Limb. But the standard UKASTA No 1 contract contains no reference to deductions for specific weight variation, he notes.

"It really is up to negotiation between buyer and seller. The key message is get your grain tested before you begin to sell and before you start to negotiate a price."

Banks Agricultures Jonathan Hoyland adds that penalties are also associated with export criteria. Denmark, France, and Sweden have plenty of better quality wheat to offer to countries such as Spain, he notes.

WHEAT WEIGHT DEBATE

&#8226 Excessive penalties for low bushel weight wheat.

&#8226 Are discounts nutritionally justified?

&#8226 NFU/UKASTA discussions on-going.

WHEAT WEIGHT DEBATE

&#8226 Excessive penalties for low bushel weight wheat.

&#8226 Are discounts nutritionally justified?

&#8226 NFU/UKASTA discussions on-going.

&#8226 Export competition demands standard.