Wheat area cut
LATEST figures for the wheat area suggest significant cuts on last year in Scotland and the north-east, and these are likely to push up regional prices.
According to the Home Grown Cereals Authoritys spring plantings survey update, the Scottish area is back by almost 21% and in the north-east its back by just under 17%.
The HGCAs Gerald Mason says prices have already begun to respond with the prospect of forward values in these areas being relatively high in relation to the futures price. "Across the border premiums are likely to be quite big. Thats likely to be mirrored in the north-east where a lot of Scottish grain is sold."
Traders are cautious about longer-term prospects, despite the overall Uk picture suggesting plantings are 9% lower than last year; there is a large carry-over of stocks; and greater variation in wheat crops.
MILK Marque members will receive a 0.25p/litre top-up with their June milk cheques, paid as an advance profits distribution on all their 1998/99 output.
The bonus, worth £14.5m to all suppliers, will be paid out at a rate of 0.026p a % for butterfat and 0.043p a % for protein. A 500,000 litre producer with standard quality milk will get an extra £1250.
The announcement comes ahead of Milk Marques annual results, which are due to be published next week. A further balancing payment should be available in July, once the accounts have been approved.
• In an attempt to reel in costs, Milk Marque is closing several depots and halving the number of hauliers it uses to seven. The changes take effect from November and will save over £2m a year.
Wool price woe
SHEEP farmers have been warned that wool prices will be down 40% on the year this season and, for most, the return will not cover the cost of clipping.
Introducing the 1999 price schedule in Scotland on Tuesday, British Wool Marketing Board chief executive Ian Hartley said the low wool cheque was going to hit hill farmers hard. They would receive little or no return for their clip.
He blamed the strength of the £ for the price decline. "Our biggest competitor in world markets is New Zealand and at one point last year the £ was 50% stronger against the NZ $ than it was two years ago."
Scottish Blackface producers would receive 55p for the very best and 31.3p for heavy cast grade. But Blackface dark grey and black fleeces would return only 2p.
Winners of this years Tesco national spring lamb competition at the Royal Bath and West Show were Adrian and Amanda (pictured) Windsor from Whitland, Carmarthen. Their five lamb carcasses from their flock of 220 commercial Texel and Rouge-cross ewes were awarded full marks for grading and 85 out of 100 for uniformity of weight. Chris Ling, Tescos agricultural manager, said the scores were the highest achieved in the competitions history. "If they could all be done like these champions the British lamb industry would be in a very good position," he said.
Pig and poultry value up in wake of dioxin scare
By Philip Clarke
PIG and poultry producers have enjoyed a fillip to their prices this week as markets at home and abroad respond to the dioxin scare currently hitting Belgian suppliers.
Liveweight pig values in the UK soared by 7p/kg at the start of the week to top 70p/kg for the first time in over a year. Deadweight prices were also showing some improvement – up 2-3p/kg – though this market usually lags the live trade.
These movements echo what has been going on in continental markets, which are more immediately influenced by events in neighbouring Belgium.
Germany in particular, which normally takes large volumes of pigmeat from Belgium, has had to look to other countries to top-up its needs, following the imposition of a unilateral ban on Belgian livestock. Combined with a strong consumer preference for home-produced pork, German pigmeat values have climbed from about DM2.2/kg (73p/kg) to DM2.5/kg (83p/kg) in the past 10 days.
Other countries have benefited from the forced removal of Belgian product from supermarket shelves. Dutch pig prices, for example, have increased from Glds1.73/kg (51p/kg) to over Glds2.00/kg (62p/kg) since the crisis broke at the end of May. (Restrictions on certain Dutch farms believed to have received contaminated feed were lifted earlier this week when tests showed dioxin levels were no different to the norm.)
Belgian farmers, however, have seen their markets collapse, with prices dropping from about BFr43/kg (69p/kg) to less than BFr38/kg (61p/kg) as slaughterhouses closed, exports were banned and consumers turned away from their products.
But the boost this has given to competitor countries – including the UK – could be short-lived.
The Belgian authorities this week planned to lift a general ban on pig slaughterings, even though an EU ruling still restricts the sale of products from farms which received the dioxin contaminated feed.
More worryingly, a number of important Third countries – including the US, Russia, Japan and Hong Kong – have imposed bans on exports of EU pork and poultry.
"In the short-term, we have enjoyed a good market situation out of this, with more of our pigs sucked into Germany," said Karsten Flemin of Danish slaughter organisation, Danske Slagterier. "But in the long term we are afraid, because of the loss of exports to some of our key markets."
This sentiment is shared by the Meat and Livestock Commission, which believes the recent price gains could be just a knee jerk reaction, rather than a sustained improvement.
Meanwhile, egg producers have enjoyed about a 10p/doz rise in wholesale prices over the past fortnight, as customers demand UK-produced eggs with the Lion Brand, claims John Patel of the Central Egg Agency.
And "free market" poultry meat has firmed considerably, according to John Parsons of the NFUs poultry office, mainly as a result of Dutch producers looking to fill the hole in Belgian market, rather than undercutting the UK trade.