12 December 1997

Scarce straw makes £55/t

STRAW has been making surprisingly big money at auction, with samples hard to find in some areas.

Christopher Boreham of Drew-eatt Neate says farmers chopped, rather than baled, straw at harvest, after the low prices of the previous season. And this, in turn, has left it in short supply. The situation could get worse, too, if the winter is long and hard.

The real upturn, says Mr Boreham, has been for wheat straw, small bales of which averaged £55/t at the firms collective auction at Newbury last Thurs-day. Thats more than twice the value seen 12 months ago.

Demand for big bales was also stronger than last season. "You couldnt give big-bale straw away last year," recalls Mr Boreham.

Trade for hay was mixed, with some samples lacking quality. The highest price at Newbury was £125/t (£2.50/bale) for Lucerne, with the best meadow hay at £105/t.

Big variations in quality were also evident at Tayler and Fletchers recent Stow-on-the-Wold auction, says the firms Graham Baddeley. Bad weather at hay-making and harvest was the reason.

Small-baled barley straw varied from £20 to £45/t, with wheat straw changing hands between £26 and £37/t.

Mr Baddeley also saw a big decline in the number of farms and estates baling this year – but he reckons theres little chance of a shortage this winter.

Meadow and mixture hay averaged £71.50 and £75/t at the sale. "There wasnt the demand from Dutch buyers that we saw last year," says Mr Baddeley.

Straw prices (small bales)

Average (£/t)

NewburyStow

Barley4334.50

Wheat5531.75

Oat44n/a