By Simon Wragg
CONCERN that straw prices could rise significantly this winter after a disappointing harvest look set to become a reality.
Some auctions already report a sharper trade this week, but producers in the west are reluctant to spend.
Weekly figures from the British Hay & Straw Merchants Association show a rise in quoted prices particularly for wheat straw, which is up 5-8/t on last year.
In the Midlands, Uttoxeter-based auctioneer Peter Oven says demand has firmed in the past fortnight.
Barley straw in big bales is similar to last years values at 43-46/t, but wheat has risen 10 to 45/t.
Most trading is being done in the north of England, although buyers are cautious.
“Money is tight and farmers are only taking what they need, particularly up in the Dales where storage is limited,” comments Skipton-based auctioneer John Hanson.
This weeks entry at the mart saw big bale barley at 53/t with the best feeding supplies over 60t.
Likewise, good quality small bale wheat straw made 54.40/t but anything second-grade is back in the 30s, says Mr Hanson.
With some wheat still standing and small of pockets of straw in the swath on northern farms, demand on the Scottish borders is also keen, reports Andrew Templeton of Borderway mart, Carlisle.
“Theres been some panic buying. Values are up, but I personally dont want to see this level continue; the industry just cant afford it.”
Further north it is a similar story. At Aberdeen & Northern Marts venue at Thainstone supplies of round bales are currently trading at 3-4/bale for wheat, depending on quality, and barley at 5-6. “Theres plenty of interest, but many are not looking forward to paying just now,” says ANMs Alistair Milne.
The situation is very different in south Wales and the south West. Prices at Abergavenny remain almost static with several lots failing to achieve what merchants suggest is a realistic price.
“Theres only demand for immediate needs. Farmers have got to have it but theres great reluctance to take it at current prices of 30-35/t for barley ex-farm,” says merchant Michael Ball of Hereford.
“Its the same down here,” says John Dorse of Cullompton, Somerset.
“There are a few outside stacks that need to be moved which are reducing prices and diluting the market. But farmers are reluctant to pay 55-60/t for small bale wheat and 60-65/t for barley delivered.”