Seed buyers in no hurry to lift traders gloom

By Philip Clarke

ROCK-bottom prices and lack of farmer buying are creating despondency in the seed trade, according to merchant reports this week.

“Most traders books are well behind last year and there has been much fighting on price to get something through processing plants,” says Gerry Cook, of wholesaler Cebeco Seed Innovations.

Continuing the trend of previous years, farmers are reluctant to commit themselves as they wait to see merchants trial results and the performance of their own crops, he says.

According to David Neale, of Dalgety, only 20-25% of anticipated business has been done so far. With the late harvest and seed beds holding ample moisture he, like others, is bracing himself for a rush of buying next month.

Mr Neale admits big national merchants have been aggressive on price. “Given the current state of farmers returns weve had to be.”

Quotes from a cross-section of merchants reveal basic feeders valued at just £200/ t delivered and treated, with “quality” wheats such as Hereward, Rialto and Malacca worth about £20/ t more. “List prices may be £10/ t down on last year, but on the farm its more like £30 or £40/ t,” was one disgruntled comment.

Seed traders also report a big swing in favour of quality cereals, as farmers seek varieties which can earn them a premium. “Weve hardly sold a tonne of feed wheat,” says Tim Hirst of BDR. “Its been wall-to-wall bread and biscuit material.”

Farmers are looking for security – be it from milling, intervention or export – and traders anticipate the area down to Class 1 and 2 wheats will be up on last years 28%.

Availability is generally good, says James Wallace of Daltons Seeds, especially following the improvement in the weather. Like others, however, he reports a tightening in the supply of Malacca which seems likely to sell out.

The picture is little better in the barley seed market. “Most of the extra 5% set-aside will be coming out of the barley acreage,” says Allied Grains Paul Brown. “With more time between harvest and drilling, and with the lack of new varieties, farmers will also have more opportunity to do farm-saved seed than with their wheats.”

Again, attention has focused on quality, with Fanfare and Regina setting the pace. Prices are holding up more than for wheats, with £240/ t delivered and treated being quoted in the eastern counties.

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