Straw values shoot up as sales kick off
By Simon Wragg
Bidding at this seasons standing straw auctions has got off to an exceptionally strong start with values in some parts of the country up by 40% on last years prices.
Livestock producers have little choice but to buy more straw after a long winter and a wet spring made worse by foot-and-mouth. These factors, coupled with a general running down of supplies held on-farm over the past few years, has sparked a surge in straw values at a time when income from the livestock sector is at an all-time low.
Across the west of England, standing straw auctions have been running for a fortnight and prices are high compared with vendors expectations. Hereford-based auctioneer David Thompson has auctioned 1070ha (2650 acres) of standing straw and seen averages lift significantly.
"Winter wheat averaged £41.76/acre against £24.75 last season and winter barley £40.50/acre against £27.65. Its been very surprising, but if producers need straw they have little choice but to pay."
And Wright-Manley offered 284ha (700 acres) of barley, wheat and oat straw on behalf of FieldFare Farmers at Whitchurch, Shropshire. "Winter wheat and barley straw both levelled at £47/acre, while spring barley straw was less at £24/acre. Thats well above expectations," said auctioneer David Fisher.
Demand has been forced by F&M, which meant that many farmers housed stock for longer, and a sharp downturn in cereal plantings last autumn. According to the Home Grown Cereals Authority, wheat area is down by 19%, which will limit straw supplies. Agronomists also expect a 25-30% drop in straw yields.
Auctioneers believe that straw will be hard to come by this autumn, but Christopher Trower, of the Hay and Straw Merchants Association, said: "Members serving the worst hit areas are holding back from the market until values return to a realistic level.
:They are counting just how many customers will be active this winter after F&M before they commit to the market." *
Average straw prices*
W wheat W barley Spr barley
W Mids 47 47 24
S-west 42 40 21
N-west** 60 53 28
* £/acre ** Limited number of auctions.