Farmer Focus Arable: Cereals is a key event for Robert Law

Traditionally, the Cereals event is a turning point in the calendar, with plans for the next year’s crops starting to be made in earnest.

It’s good to see much more optimism about than a few months ago when memories of the 2008 harvest, depressed commodity prices and soaring input costs were on everybody’s minds.

With new-season UK ammonium nitrate prices going sub-£200/t, TSP prices down to a third of what they were a year ago, fuel prices half those of last harvest, and both new and old crop prices rising recently, there’s a lot more to be positive about.

I won’t talk about stock prices, as neighbours and colleagues keep referring to the woolly pots of gold I have wandering about my fields.

While planning 2010 cropping there is also the opportunity to lock in at prices above those available for this year’s harvest.

For many there will be the now seemingly annual decision of whether to persist with sugar beet growing. Last year, by the time a final price was announced in late July/early August many growers were already committed, so switching to alternatives, such as oilseed rape wasn’t really feasible.

The beet price allows no reinvestment and provides little or no profit. The NFU’s request for £34.50/t would at last see some reinvestment in the crop and a margin being restored, something which has been absent for the past few years.

With contracts for other 2010 cropping opportunities landing on growers’ desks and strengthening forward commodity prices for harvest 2010 produce, British Sugar needs to break its silence and match its enthusiastic statements about the future of the crop with a response to the NFU’s request.

Nobody wants a repeat of last year’s drawn-out negotiations and a return to a “one more push” syndrome.

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