The first standing straw auctions of 2019 have seen prices drop back in some cases by more than half from the highs of last year.
Tom Mellor, associate with Greenslade Taylor Hunt in Somerset, said there had been a bumper entry for their first sale of the year on 1 July, with more than 2,700 acres on offer in a single night.
Winter wheat straw sold for an average of £54/acre compared with £140/acre at the equivalent sale in 2018, with winter barley averaging £63/acre compared with £168/acre last year.
Meanwhile, winter oats averaged £47/acre, compared with £129/acre in 2018. Mr Mellor estimated that this year’s straw crops were looking 10-20% heavier than last year, so buyers were getting extremely good value.
“It was a big swing [on values]. But I think a lot of big buyers from last year still have plentiful supplies left, as they haven’t yet sold it or used anywhere near the expected amount.”
He added: “The crowds that were in attendance managed to really replenish stocks and buy a lot more than they came for at reasonable money.”
Mr Mellor said the top price paid for a heavy crop of winter barley was £115/acre and for winter wheat £110/acre, so there was some variability in values dependent on location.
“These will be 2.0-2.5t/acre crops of straw in a good location with good access.”
Greg Ridout from Symonds and Sampson said there had been more than 7,000 acres around the Dorset area entered for their sale on Friday (28 June), of which about 1,500 acres had gone unsold because it didn’t make a high enough price to make it worth baling rather than chopping.
Winter barley had averaged £74.80/acre, which was 45% down on the previous year, while winter wheat had averaged £50.93/acre, which was down 50%.
Spring barley had averaged £35.85/acre.
But Mr Ridout pointed out that at a sale last Wednesday (26 June) in Devon, the averages had been higher. Winter barley had averaged £111.45/acre, winter wheat £73.36/acre, winter oats £70.29/acre and spring oats £46.51/acre.
“There was more competition down there, as all the buyers are farmers buying for their own sheds, rather than hauliers. It is very location driven.”
Chris Clapham, partner with Stags, said his first sale of the season at Crediton saw 500 acres come under the hammer, with winter barley selling at £90/acre and winter wheat at £65/acre.
Oilseed rape straw sold for £30/acre and oat straw at £52/acre.
A second sale of 250 acres in East Devon saw winter barley averaging £99/acre and winter wheat £72/acre.
Mr Clapham said there was less heat in the market than in 2018, but the auctions had still attracted a good crowd of local buyers.
“At the first few sales last year, people were panicking, as all the talk was about how there wasn’t going to be much straw about.
“But people didn’t put the cutters on the back of the combine so in the end there was loads about.”
Shropshire-based John Uffold from McCartneys said there did seem to be a lot of straw on offer this year.
At McCartney’s collective straw sale at Ludlow market on Monday (1 July), winter wheat straw sold for between £40-£45/acre, but at a farm-based sale a couple of days before, winter wheat straw had sold for £62/acre.
“Haulage costs are a big factor around here. Prices are back, but how much depends on who your neighbours are and how convenient it is for them to collect the crop when there is less farm labour on farms to deal with it.”