9 August 2002

Straw on rise if wet goes on

MERCHANTS expect straw prices to rise £3-4/t if wet weather continues as growers engage choppers behind combines to clear land – a move that will limit supplies.

"The larger estates wont wait," warns Ian Pearson, of Cirencester-based merchant Abbot & Co. "They will want land clear for cultivations and in some areas theyve already started.

"The market is in a state of flux, but prices will settle if it brightens up. Contractors can clear land quickly with todays big balers, but we need the weather."

Some merchants are already paying £2-3/t over the odds for baled supplies ex-farm to keep lorries busy during the lull, says merchant John Dorse in Cullumpton, Devon. "We cant afford to stand still. Buyers are relatively quiet anyway – barns are full after the fairly heavy hay and silage crops. But demand will pick up, particularly in the north. However, costs will have to be passed on if supplies get tight."

Prices could rise by £3-4/t over the next fortnight, reckons Cheshire-based merchant James Fielding. "The trade has been expecting a disruption in the weather and we all know the consequences on supply and demand. The actions of growers will be critical."

Traders put barley straw at £25-30/t ex-farm in central regions for conventional-sized bales and £20-25/t for big bales.

By contrast, wheat straw prices remain in balance, says Simon Pallett, of auctioneers Dreweatt Neate in Newbury, Berks. "Its right on the margin at the moment. Buyers are still reluctant to pay £10/acre and at that price many growers will incorporate straw to clear land. Its worth at least that in fertiliser value." &#42