Little scope for change to moisture specifications

Milling wheat buyers are unlikely to increase their minimum moisture contents for delivered grain, despite calls from farmers struggling to get crops in and facing massive drying costs.

Martin Savage of NABIM (National Association of British and Irish Millers) said most contracts required grain to be 15% moisture or below, because anything above that increased the risk of mycotoxins and insect infestations developing during storage.

“Since the 90’s [when minimum moisture tolerances were higher] we’ve learnt a lot more about these problems and now know what we need to do to ensure problems don’t occur in the food chain. It’s hard to see the mills varying much from this, unless they’re certain it can be used the next day. It is a contractual matter for individuals.”

Glencore reported that some millers were accepting wheat up to 16% moisture, but the firm’s Nick Oakhill said further changes were unlikely. “It’s guaranteeing grain can be used straight away that’s the problem – you just can’t store it for long over 16%.” He said the lack of dry grain was posing a real challenge for exporters in particular, most of which needed grain below 15%.

Grainfarmers’ Elved Phillips agreed that potential mycotoxin problems meant derogations were pretty much out of the question. But there were opportunities to sell some wetter loads, provided growers were prepared to accept penalties. The only way to shift the huge tonnage of wheat still to cut – many farms still had 30-50% in the field – was to export it.

“The problem is that shipments have a maximum moisture content of 14.5%. There are shippers taking it at 16-16.5% to blend with drier grain, but they do make deductions.”

Most maltsters were operating the MAGB scale contract, allowing growers to send grain up to 18% until the end of October with deductions for moisture, he added. “But they don’t usually take anything off for weight loss.”

The NFU’s Guy Gagen added: “If you want to negotiate, the AIC contract allows you to, but there will probably be a financial penalty.”

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