Premiums turn growers away from milling wheat

Growers are considering turning their backs on Group 1 milling wheats after this season’s typical premiums over feed wheat of £7-£8/t fail to cover the additional growing costs of up to £15-£20/t.

A string of growers speaking to FWi’s Harvest Highlights in recent weeks have suggested the premiums have been insufficient.

But NABIM representative, Damian Testa, says the average premiums for bread-making wheat over the past six seasons, excluding the disastrous 2004 harvest, have been £13.40/t.

“And currently premiums are as much as £14.50/t, according to the latest HGCA market report.”

UK millers are committed to sourcing UK supplies and achieved a milestone of milling over 4m tonnes of UK wheat in 2005, he says.

“If milling wheat supplies did decline UK millers would import more quality wheat, which could allow domestic prices to rise.”

However, it would be subject to the cost of imported wheat and limited to a certain tonnage requirement, he notes.

Hampshire agronomist Steve Cook acknowledges more growers are questioning Group 1s.

While there hasn’t been a significant shift in the varieties grown in his region in previous seasons, some are now considering a move away from Malacca, because of its problems with low specific weights.

Solstice and Einstein are the likely beneficiaries, he says.

“They’re both fairly easy to manage and also have good yield potential.

You wouldn’t get much more yield by growing the highest yielding variety on the list.”

Grainfarmers’ Simon Ingle agrees.

About 35% of harvested Malacca may have too low a specific weight due to earlier dry weather and he thinks the area grown next year will drop significantly, in favour of Solstice.

“The minimum additional cost of growing Solstice is about £10/t for fertiliser, sprays, segregation, etc, so you’ve got to be making a premium over and above that to justify growing it.”

He believes it is vital to grow for your local market and maintain a balance of quality and feed wheats.

“If you’re in Norfolk or Suffolk, for example, animal feed is the major market, so you’ve got to question growing quality wheat.

Whereas in the middle of the country, there are more millers, so it’s worth considering growing quality wheat.”