19 June 1998

Trade bodies say maintain push for better quality wheat

DESPITE the expected squeeze on class 2 wheat premiums this harvest, the trade, NIAB and NABIM all remain convinced that farmers should keep growing quality wheats.

"With little yield penalty and a more marketable end product, farmers should not be put off growing class 2 wheats by a tighter premium," says Richard Fenwick, NIABs cereal variety specialist.

"Rialto, currently the leading class 2 variety, offers high yields and exportable quality," he says. "In the past, if farmers growing quality wheats missed the spec, they would lose out two-fold. But with varieties such as Rialto and Charger, this is no longer the case."

Robert Kerr of Glencore Grain puts new crop class 2 premiums at £5/t. Although that is down on the five-year average of £5-£10/t, he still believes farmers should consider them in their portfolio.

"With some class 2 wheats offering little or no yield penalty, we suggest farmers grow a spread of wheats, basing their decision-making on agronomic factors and treating any premium as a bonus."

John Tudor, president of NABIM, admits there is no guarantee of a specific premium. "Our prices are governed by what our customers will pay us. In a supply and demand situation we have to take the commercial consensus. We want to see a guaranteed home market and we want to see British class &#8226 wheats. But our message to farmers has to be to grow a balance of varieties."

And as new class 1 varieties come forward demonstrating even higher yields, Mr Fenwick believes there could be a further shift towards the top end of the market.

"Varieties such as Malacca and Shango are now emerging as quality, high yielding class ones. Shamrock, yet to be recommended, is showing a yield equivalent to Riband, which is still a widely grown class 3 wheat.

"With high yielding varieties like these to choose from, we could definitely see a further shift into the top end of the quality market." &#42

More high yielding, high quality wheats mean the across-the-board drive for better crop quality will continue, predicts NIABs cereals specialist Richard Fenwick.