Peter Stewart, Scottish NFU vice-president, said this harvests experience, where many farmers sent barley to maltsters and received a downpayment, with the promise of the balance once prices were fixed later in the season, was no basis to do business for future years.
Although most growers have now received their final payments, this years problems – caused by oversupply of malting barley, a weak spot market and the effects of the strong £ – had resulted in too much uncertainty for growers at a time when they could least afford it.
Meetings involving maltsters and both farming unions were being arranged, he said. At the very least, growers needed an assurance that they would get a worthwhile premium over feed barley prices.
The way forward, said Mr Stewart, was for farmers to work more closely together. Only about 15% of Scotlands grain is currently sold through co-operatives. That left most trying to sell on their own, putting them at the mercy of an increasingly volatile market.
John Hunter, commercial director of East of Scotland Farmers, said the average malting barley price this year was £75-76/t, compared with a feed price at harvest of £68/t. This was due to higher yields and quality throughout Scotland, he added.