8 September 2000

SCOTTISH grain farmers are being told that 80/t is now the top spot price for malting barley, despite a potential shortfall.

There has been little progress with our barley harvest in the past week because of heavy rain and there are now worries about quality, said Bruce Ferguson, Dalgety sales manager. But I think farmers should not expect any local scarcity to raise prices. Maltsters can purchase plenty of English barley at 80.

Ian Simpson of Glencore Grain said the quality of the Scottish crop was holding up remarkably well. There will not be much fall out although there is a lot of grain still to harvest in the north-east. The 80/t spot price is for barley of up to 1.55% nitrogen, under 19% moisture, and with screenings of less than 10%. Apart from the moisture content, there has been no difficulty, so far, meeting the other demands.

Elsewhere, prices are typically 75-80/t ex-farm for top quality Optic and Chariot, says Michael Banks of Banks Agriculture. Up to 90% of spring barley is making the grade, compared with 60% last year, so there is a potential oversupply.

All eyes are on Scotland. About 60% of the central grain belt is cut. But the north-east holds the key the final supply situation will become much clearer in the next few days.

Even at current prices, spring barley is worth 25-33% more than feed grain, he says. When barley was worth 100/t, people were very happy to take a 25% premium. Perhaps we should start to think about % a tonne, rather than s/t.

Longer term, prices look settled, barring a major problem on the world stage to boost exports. Denmark and Sweden have both reported good harvests, the French crop is mostly in good condition, and Canada is reasonable happy as it approaches the halfway mark, says Mr Banks.

People are starting to look at Australia. The next two months are crucial, though news from there is quite chirpy at the moment. But if we watch the Olympics in blazing sunshine, then they could be in for a problem.