17 August 2001

Straw prices topsy-turvy in regions

By Simon Wragg

HUGE disparities in regional prices continues to dominate the straw market, leaving established merchants questioning margins.

Auctioneer Richard Stagg has witnessed prices in mid-Devon follow other western areas and creep up despite the potential loss of livestock farms to foot-and-mouth. "Of the limited barley straw that has been on offer prices would have averaged over £45/acre – with bids topping £73/acre for standing straw."

Although straw supplies have been questioned after a difficult growing season, Hay and Straw Merchants Associations Christopher Trower says there is no need for panic buying. However, prices may lift by £10/t to cover the hike in supply costs, he says (see table).

Keith Pegden, a Basingstoke-based merchant, believes the economics are not justifiable when stock farms are already suffering financial difficulties. "The end price is getting silly – the figures just dont stack up.

"Theres new blood coming in willing to pay inflated prices, but the cost of baling and shifting straw is creeping up and you have to question whether they have done their sums."

In the eastern arable belt straw costs have also risen, say traders. "Some arable estates are asking nearly double for wheat straw, saying its value as P and K for following crops has shot up following higher fertiliser costs," comments one buyer.

The crunch will come as autumn buying gets into full swing. "We have yet to see the effect of F&M on customer numbers, but merchants say there will be enough supplies to go around," says Mr Trower. &#42

Winter-sown straw costs (£/acre)

Barley Wheat Oats

West Yorks – 18-28 22-23

East Yorks 10-15 5-8 –

West Mids 33-47 – –

Kent 8-12 5-8 –

Mid Devon 45 – –