30 June 1995

New hay brings

panic buying

AS new season hay begins arriving in markets auctioneers are reporting a strong trade.

Prices at Chelford rose to £140/t on Monday, a market record for the time of year. Auctioneer Jonathan Farrall saw all 10 loads realise over £100/t. He says "panic buying" may be the cause.

"People saw trade shoot up to £180/t last year and may be buying in anticipation of this happening again," he says. "People seem to grazing rather than mowing. And the area available for hay-making has been reduced by set-aside obligations.

"Most hay in this area had been made by the end of last weekend. Entries should begin increasing next week, possibly trebling within a month."

But the demand may be strong enough to hold prices up. "Last week, for instance, when we had our first consignment of new hay, we probably could have sold over 50 loads," remarks Mr Farrall. "Prices last week topped at £95/t; this week very similar hay from the same farm made £111/t."

At Skipton new season hay averaged £108.50 on Monday. And at Carlisle meanwhile, a small entry topped at £79/t.

But caution is expressed by Frank Hood at Uttoxeter. "Buyers sometimes forget that there will be a big weight loss between now and October," he says. He has seen firm straw prices maintained, with barley straw selling to £63/t last week and wheat straw to £58/t.

"Not all cattle are turned out these days," he points out, "and so there will usually be some demand."

And at Abergavenny the three loads sold last week ranged from £75/t for "strong, coarse" hay to £100/t for good-quality meadow hay. "I was expecting a strong trade, bearing in mind the prices old season hay was making a few weeks ago," says auctioneer Syd Walker.

"It was a long winter and the barns were emptied," he says. "So it looks like being a firm market."

Christopher Trower at the British Hay & Straw Merchants Association suggests the signs are that the hay crop will be on the short side. He points to the "high-risk" nature of hay making as having contributed to the decline in the amount made in recent years.

"But only relatively small volumes have been moved so far," he says. "It is difficult to predict which way the market will go." &#42