Uncertain outlook for wheat seed market

Another rain-interrupted harvest has prompted concerns for the availability and price of wheat seed this autumn, but all is not lost yet, say merchants.

Crops in the West Country, West Midlands, Yorkshire and Scotland had been worst affected, but those further south and east should be okay provided there were no more significant rain interruptions, Gleadell‘s Stuart Shand said on Tuesday (26 August).

“There’s a lot of uncertainty, but at the moment it’s largely based on concern rather than facts. If we have lost crops in Yorkshire and the south west, it will put more pressure on prices, but it is still a bit too early to call.”

Good yields, particularly of newer varieties such as Viscout, Duxford and JB Diego were likely to compensate for rain-hit crops, he said. Seed prices – closely linked to the base wheat price – had remained relatively unaffected by the wet start to harvest at about £320-330/t delivered, he noted.

Autumn drilling

Wheat seed prices hit £400/t last year, but higher yields could avoid a similar situation this season

Grainfarmers‘ Paul Taylor agreed and said that a week of fine weather would see most crops in the barn and avoid any major seed supply problems. “But it’s a very regional picture. Germinations need checking and there’s also a lot of fusarium about, so growers need to be very cautious about saving their own seed.”

John Crang from J Pickard & Co in north Devon said some wheat seed crops had already been lost due to the bad weather last week and he was trying to buy in supplies from further east. “The base price for wheat is still fairly stable, so seed prices don’t seem to be affected yet (at about £350-370/t delivered). It’s more a question of physically getting hold of the product.”

For oilseed rape, the picture was slightly better, particularly as a large amount was produced in France, where crops were harvested six to eight weeks ago, Ian Munnery of Elsoms said. “There’s plenty of seed available, but the speed of turning around varieties with the right dressing could be an issue if there’s a big rush in the next week or so.” Prices were similar to last year, at £50-60/ha for hybrids and £30-45/ha for conventional varieties, depending on variety and seed rate.

Mr Munnery advised any growers who had not yet done so to get seed booked soon and to look at all the crop performance data they could before making final decisions. “Some merchants may offer a limited portfolio, so if you can’t find the one you want, don’t be afraid to shop around.”

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