Standing straw prices could be 15-20% higher than last year, with yields expected to be extremely variable because of the challenging weather.
Auctioneers and agents are preparing for sales of standing straw to start later this month and warning that they expect it to be a bullish market with sellers of quality crops in a strong position.
Andrew Wallace of Cheshire-based Rostons, which sells across North Shropshire, Cheshire and north Wales, said he was already getting calls from both buyers and vendors.
Supplies of winter wheat and winter barley straw are expected to be tight because of the wet autumn, with spring crops looking pretty variable, depending on when they were drilled.
“I think it will be a buoyant market for straw in the swath, with quality lots attracting considerable interest, but it is going to be very much based on tallness of straw and thickness of crops. Short straw will perhaps be harder to place, unless people are really desperate,” said Mr Wallace.
“Last year, we had barley about £100/acre, but for a thick crop this year, I think we could get about £120/acre, with wheat maybe at £70-£90/acre. But that’s a punt, as we haven’t sold any yet.”
Tom Mellor, of West Country agent Greenslade Taylor Hunt, is collecting entries for two timed online auctions covering about 4,000 acres of standing straw.
These will take place in the final week of June, making them among the first sales of the season.
“We are going to be very light on winter crops entered, but I think that’s going to be offset by spring crops and a bigger entry of lower-value crops such as oilseed rape,” he said.
“Where we were averaging high £65-£70/acre for winter crops last year, I think we are going to be much higher. People are also going to be paying more for a lighter crop.
“Last year was a year for buyers; this year it could be vice versa.”
Greg Ridout of Symonds & Sampson, which covers an area from the New Forest to east Devon, has three sales scheduled for early July, the biggest of which is generally about 8,000 acres, but this year the entry is down to 6,500 acres.
“We’re a little bit down, as we normally sell a few hundred acres of rape straw and this year we only have 30 acres.
“But we’ve more winter barley entered than for many years to date and those crops generally look pretty good.”
Mr Ridout said his view was that prices might be about at the same level as last year – which for winter barley was about £70-£75/acre and for winter wheat about £55-£60/acre.
“But when you equate that to pounds per tonne, they will be a lot more, because the yields aren’t as good.”
Suffolk-based pig industry consultant Peter Crichton said he is expecting the straw market to be more bullish than bearish this year.
“We could see a 15% increase in straw prices year-on-year.”