Farmer Focus Arable: Organic market is returning to stability for Andrew Charlton

A very constructive day at the Organic Arable conference has given me a much more accurate picture of the future for organic cereal production.

Despite headlines about organic food being in terminal decline, we’ve now got over the shadow of the dratted and unnecessary “feed holiday” proposals, and it seems that the market is returning to some stability.

That said we still import a huge tonnage of organic grain into the UK and it’s likely that we won’t see the huge forward purchases of imported grain before this harvest, which so disrupted the market in 2008.

An interesting perspective I learned at the conference on the link between corn and horn in the organic world is a basic formula for milk and grain prices. Take the milk price in p/litre, multiply by 10 and this number equates to the price of concentrate feed in £/t. Take away £100 for other inputs and the rest equates to the price for grain. It seems to work for organic; is it the same for conventional, I wonder.

This is my first year of co-operative marketing through Organic Arable and I’m really happy with the results. Co-operation seems even more logical in the organic world, as we’re still such a small group of producers with no market clout on our own.

Cereals here look good on the whole after a series of pretty much default derogated applications of sulphur, zinc and manganese, although low lying parts of fields have looked yellowish all spring. I suspect that’s down to poor rooting after winter waterlogging.

Encouragingly, no matter how much I worry about their earlier appearance, crops almost always recover at this time of year and final yield is OK. I guess I’m still attuned to the cosmetic effects of nitrogen fertiliser.

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