7 August 1998

Most seed is in ready supply at cost or below

By Andrew Blake

HYBRID rape apart, seed for the main combinable crops should be readily available this autumn – provided forecast fine weather holds.

That is the view of traders who say growers are ordering later than ever as uncertainty over the prospects for crops, which may not be sold until the turn of the century, creates an increasingly spot market. Much seed is on offer at-cost or below, maintains Neil Pateman of Banks Agriculture and UKASTA seeds committee chairman.

Restored hybrid oilseed rape Pronto is one of the few varieties in short supply. "We still have a little left, but it is likely to sell out very quickly," says Mr Pateman

Increasing interest in premium earning cereals could see Halcyon and Pipkin barleys getting tight, he adds. "Just remember that nearly all our raw material is still out in the field and is not improving. The wise farmer will order wheats now. Hereward and Malacca will be the first to go."

Nick Hartwell for Cargill foresees no problems supplying most oilseed rape varieties. "We still have some Pronto available." But farmers are very reluctant to place orders for cereals other than varieties with some sort of buy-back contract, such as Chaucer and Malacca wheat, he notes.

Richard Mason, for wholesaler Burlinghams, says marketability is clearly much more to the fore in growers decision making. Rialto, Charger and Cantata wheats are all selling well and Malacca is two-thirds gone.

All Dalgetys Pronto was snapped up last week, reports Barry Barker. Selling conventional varieties is hard going, although Apexs market share could be higher than expected, he says.

About 20% of next seasons Pronto is expected to come from seed grown last year or in France. With UK seed yields slightly below last years and demand exceeding expectations, further supplies are "subject to crop", says breeder CPB Twyford.

Cereal orders are 10% down on the same time last year. But demand for new varieties like Claire wheat is strong, says Mr Barker. "We could have sold three or four times what we have."

A key factor is the unpredictable extent of farm-saved seed, especially of oilseed rape, says Gerry Cook of Cebeco Seed Innovations. "There is much more scope with oilseed rape. What rape seed is being traded is being sold for very low margins."

SEED SUPPLY

* Later than ever ordering.

* Few shortages predicted.

* Hybrid rape in demand.

* Premium cereals interest.