Stay with backward OSR as shortfall looms

Oilseed rape growers are urged to stick with sickly fields and top up with spring varieties as the crop harvest area could slump by 30%.

Harvest estimates vary widely as poor autumn-sown crops are ripped up and forecasts for the area of spring oilseed rape are upgraded.

Crops already struggling following a cold and wet winter were hit by severe pigeon grazing in March, and around a fifth of that planted has been abandoned.

United Oilseeds sees a national crop of just over 2m tonnes helped by a upswing in spring varieties, while another trader Gleadell expects a 1.7m tonne harvest following the tough winter.

Both say growers can earn a decent return with July rapeseed trading at £350/t ex-farm, but prices could be pressured later by better crops in France and Germany and as bumper soyabean crops start to arrive from South America. There is also potentially a big crop to come from the USA.

Owen Cligg, trading manager at United Oilseeds, says there is a significant area of spring oilseed rape still to be drilled and so the outlook for the crop will only be clear in about a month.

“Even if 20% of the winter crop is ripped up there could be 10% of the crop in spring varieties and we expect to see a harvest of just over 2m tonnes,” he tells Farmers Weekly.

Jonathan Lane, trading manager at Gleadell, is more pessimistic after the harsh winter hit autumn-sown crops and as spring varieties are much lower yielding.

“Oilseed rape has the ability to recover, but I believe the damage has been done and the harvest area could be 25-30% down on last year,” he says.

If the total crop area is down 30% from last season’s record 756,000ha, then the resultant crop of about 530,000ha could be the lowest since 2002.

Mr Lane’s low harvest estimate is based on a smaller backward autumn crop not having branched very well, while spring varieties can have poor yields of below 2.5t/ha.

A national crop of 1.7m tonnes would be sharply down on 2012’s 2.6m tonne harvest and the 2.8m tonne record crop in 2011.

Traders say growers are reluctant sellers at the moment until they can assess their crops in the field and estimate what yield they may produce.

Spring oilseed rape is still being drilled, and traders say the area could reach 60,000ha after a previous forecast of 55,000ha, following last season’s 12,000ha.