Farmer Focus: Chaotic economy means high cereal prices

It is quite unbelievable how much the world has changed since I last wrote. At the beginning of March, I was skiing with a small group in a remote part of Italy and while coronavirus was a bit of a concern, other than extra hand washing, life was good.

Fast forward a week, and there were cases in the UK and Italy was shutting down. We now have schools closed, and the stay at home policy has become much stricter.

The impact on everyone worldwide is massive and likely to be long lasting.

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While agriculture is less immediately affected, as generally we are not selling direct to the public, there is still a significant impact on normal life, family activities etc.

There is also a concern about the impact of staff having to self-isolate will have, both on farms and on the supply chain being able to continue to deliver chemicals, parts and medicines as required.

We are trying to stay separate as much as possible during work, but with some livestock operations that is not always easy.

We eventually found a source of hand sanitiser and this has now been added to shared vehicles.

Rapid growth

We have continued to have dry but cold weather, with few days above 8C since mid-February.

All winter crops have been top dressed and we started drilling spring barley on 20 March, about a week ahead of average.

Seedbed conditions are very good and when it does warm up there should be some rapid growth, putting pressure on sprayer capacity.

The chaos in the economy as a result of coronavirus has seen a sharp increase in cereal prices in the past few days, giving an opportunity to sell most of the remainder of the 2019 harvest and take a bit more cover on new crop.

Meanwhile oilseeds have followed the crude oil price downwards, but at least this has allowed me to fix the price of some fuel for harvest at significantly less than the budgeted price.

I hope that everyone stays healthy in the coming months and that by harvest we might be back to a more normal situation.

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