1 December 1995

Milling wheat concern

WHEAT growers need much stronger incentives if they are to make the switch to milling varieties, according to crop consultant, Alan Bide.

Speaking at the "New market factors for grain" farmer forum at this weeks Smithfield FarmTech, he explained that, while milling wheat suffered a 13% yield penalty, it was only getting an 8% price premium.

With variable costs also higher due to additional spray costs, gross margins based on mid-November values came to £908/ha (£367/acre), some £50/ha (£20/acre) less than feed wheat. Growers were also put off by the risks of not making the standard.

Malting barley, on the other hand, was a much more attractive proposition, with premiums more than compensating for the 1.2t/ha (0.5t/acre) yield loss.

Based on an average yield of 6.2t/ha (2.5t/acre) and a price of £150/t, Mr Bide estimated the malting barley gross margin at £943/ha (£382/acre) – some £115/ha (£47/acre) more than for feed barley. And given the strong world market for malt, buyers were also more likely to find another outlet if the crop fell short of specification.

Mr Bide said that, to encourage more growers into milling wheat, the trade should ensure the premium is in line with the yield penalty, and make an additional payment to cover the extra risks. "Growers need to feel confident about growing milling wheat," he said.