22 August 1997

Sluggish start for cereal seed trade

TRADE in certified cereal seed has got off to another slow start, despite substantially lower prices than last year.

"Farmers have an awful lot to think about and are less willing than ever to make an early commitment," says Gerry Cook of wholesaler Seed Innovations.

Apart from the fact most are pre-occupied with getting the harvest in, there are still big question marks over varietal performance following a demanding season.

"On top of that, they are also looking at prices of just £75/t for their grain. They will be asking themselves if its worth growing second wheats and barleys at all."

While these questions remain unanswered, merchants order books are decidedly empty. Tim Hirst of BDR reckons only 35% of the barley trade is done, and even less of the wheat.

"Regina is our leading seller, together with Halcyon," he says. "Fanfare is also seeing good interest at the expense of Gleam, as it gets more support from the maltsters."

Other merchants confirm the popularity of Regina, not only as a malting variety (it has provisional Institute of Brewing approval) but also as a feeder due to its top of the range yield performance. It is in danger of selling out in some areas.

Prices quoted on farm range from about £200-£215/t for recleaned, untreated feeders such as Fighter, Pastoral and Intro to £230-£240/t for malting types Regina and Halcyon. These are about £50/t less than last year for the established varieties and £100/t less for the newcomers.

Generally, demand for barleys has been poor due to low prices and disappointing malting premiums. Barry Barker of Dalgety reckons his barley book is about 10-15% behind last year. And instead of going for oilseed rape, as expected, much of the additional area seems destined for wheat.

There is particular demand for high yielding breadmaker Rialto, with other newly recommended varieties Abbot, Equinox and Charger also taking share from established hard endosperm wheats. Accounting for only 12% of the area entered for certification, farmers saw these would be in tight supply and booked early.

"People are waking up to the fact that they should be growing varieties with a guaranteed market outlet next year," says Dalgetys David Neale. Given the good performances of these newcomers this harvest, plus the better milling premiums, he advises growers to book now or face disappointment.

As with barleys, wheat seed prices are lower this season. Riband has been quoted as low as £185/t untreated – down over £30/t – though £200/t is more common. Consort, Brigadier and Reaper all manage about a £15 premium, reflecting the royalty diference. At the other end, Rialto is more like £270/t untreated, with Hereward a bit less.n

Apex oilseed rape is drilled into a 28ha (69-acre) field at E W Brown and Sons Park Farm, Essendine, Lincs, earlier this week.