12 July 2002

Price weakens as farms delay choice

By Andrew Shirley

WHEAT growers are delaying the decision over which varieties to order for next season, say seed merchants across the country. But with plentiful supplies prices are weakening.

"Farmers are only just beginning to think about varietal choice. Some are still working out if they are even going to stay in farming," reckons James Wallace of Cambs-based Dalton Seeds. "Harvest is going to be a crunch time for many."

Tim Hurst, seeds director at SCATS Agri-products, agrees. "The market is slow. With grain below £60/t, farmers are still recoiling from the thought of spending more money. They are leaving the decision later and later. Less than 10% of seed has been ordered so far."

However, a number of broad trends are starting to emerge, he says. "There will be some discounting because wheat prices are down."

Group 3 varieties Claire and Consort could be down around £10/t on last year at £230/t, says Mr Wallace, who feels there might be a move towards Group 2 varieties as farmers search for quality premiums after this years disappointing trade.

This shift could see new NIAB-listed Group 2 variety Solstice exceeding the £300/t mark. "It will be short, I couldnt find any more if I needed it," says John Poulton, of national supplier Direct Farm Marketing.

"If any variety is going to be in tight supply it will be Solstice," says Barry Barker at Dalgety Agriculture. "The millers seem to like it and it has a flexibility in terms of drilling dates that hasnt been seen before in quality wheats."

So far, nobody admits to any loss of interest in breeder Advantas troubled bread wheat Xi19. Most merchants say it is too soon to judge whether farmers will shun the widely promoted variety, despite reports concerning flag leaf discoloration (see Arable p45).

"It hasnt looked as good as it might," concedes Mr Barker. "But there is unquestionably good demand and it is certainly one of the most popular varieties so far. People have not been cancelling their orders. There is no panic in the seed trade."

Even if alternatives are wanted supplies are unlikely to tighten. "Because of farm saving there never tends to be a shortage except for new varieties," says Mr Poulton.

&#8226 For the full low down on seed varieties, see this weeks Seeds Focus supplement. &#42