Farmer Focus Arable: Richard Cobbald pays attention to the commodity markets

One of the biggest problems faced by us all in arable farming is the price of our commodities. I have never been so interested in the value of sterling against the euro – it seems it only has to move up or down by a cent and the price of wheat moves a pound.


This seems to be all that is driving the markets and, as the recession shows, we are not very good at reading what currencies do. It means is almost daily conversations to try to catch the market at the right time. The harsh reality is it is time to be office-bound and reduce the heaps of paper that have built up while out doing the fun stuff on the estate.

There is, however, still plenty of time being allocated for field walking, with slugs on the march and an ever-increasing list of fields that need autumn Atlantis as dormant blackgrass leaps into life after the rain.

Add to this the Kerb to go on the oilseed rape, and our new sprayer operator should know his way around the Bateman by Christmas. It’s time to get the marketing right so the cash flow can cover the cost of all these inputs.

I have been astonished to hear of fellow farmers who have not received their maps yet. When will this incompetence stop? That, plus taxpayers’ money reportedly wasted by the Rural Payments Agency, should be front page news.

But it never is; Our industry likes to keep anything to do with subsidies a bit quiet for fear of what people will think. We should tell them – as EU money becomes more and more decoupled, we are being increasingly paid to manage the countryside in a way that those who care are happy with, and still produce cheap food.

Kill two birds with one stone. Promote British farming, and expose more government inadequacies.

Richard Cobbald is farm manager for West Wratting Park Estate near Cambridge. The 1300ha (3200 acres) of heavy soils grow wheat, oilseed rape, sugar beet and spring barley.

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