Combines march into variable barley crops

By Peter Grimshaw

SHOWERS across the South have for the most part halted progress in generally good-looking barley crops, but rainfall has been more patchy further east.

The weather outlook for the rest of Europe currently appears relatively stable, with predictions of near-normal temperatures and precipitation.

Roughly 15-20% of UK barley crops have been harvested.

Higher yields, combined with better quality than last year, are suggested by earliest offerings. The Home-Grown Cereals Authority reports that earliest samples appear to have relatively low nitrogen content, and few physical problems, particularly with grain size.

However, malting barley specialist Oliver Hitchcock, of Allied Grain, Diss, says that nitrogen values in some of the earliest samples have paradoxically been too low.

“The big brewers looking for lager beer malt need 1.6-1.75%N, and they have been coming in under that. Later samples show some signs of an increase, however.”

Mr Hitchcock says physical qualities are also variable. “Crops are thick, with a good deal of secondary tillering, which could add to screenings,” he comments.

Quality is the key factor in export potential. “It is important that specific weights remain high, to help the export programme,” comments Ian Wallis of Cargill.

He reports that bushel weights for samples tested so far range between 64 and 68kg/hl.

Ex-farm spot prices are hovering around £66-67/t, with an HGCA East Anglian reference of £66.00/t and higher values further north.

The old-crop barley trading effectively ended when the combines began to roll, with typical ex-farm spot values in the range £66-£68/t.

There are currently 700,000t in UK intervention stores, however. European barley intervention sales last week totalled around 183,000, from Germany, Austria, Spain, France and the UK.

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