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August 20, 2013

The combines are rolling well at last…

A slow and frustrating start to the harvest it’s certainly been. But then it was always going to be after a year of such extreme conditions and with such a range of crops and drill dates. I know it’s tempting fate to say ‘so far so good’. Let’s face it, though, given what we’ve coped with over the past 18 months, things are very definitely encouraging.

 The barley crop has been performing well with good bushel weights and bold samples on the whole and yields from 5-10 t/ha depending on soils and drill dates. Hybrids have shown their particular strength under the difficult conditions and demand is strong for limited seed. Having said that, the new two rows, Glacier and California and popular Cassia have been well-up in yields too.

OSR continues to be the ‘agony’ crop with desiccation still taking place while early crops have been off a good 10 days. Yields of fully-established crops have been average to good, with some 5t/ha crops but many in the 3t/ha area. Isn’t it amazing what rape can deliver from thin and struggling crops that were still going backwards in April? Quality hybrids have definitely had the edge, with Dekalb’s pod shatter resistant genetics proving especially welcome this season. At the same time, Quartz looks excellent as a conventional variety and stalwart Catana keeps performing.

Wheat is now coming in nicely with bushel weights in the mid 70’s to mid 80’s. What a refreshing change! Samples are bright and bold, Hagbergs strong and proteins on the higher side. Yes, there are some small samples about. I think early varieties may have taken some heat damage and we mustn’t forget take-all and general rooting problems from compacted soils coming out of the winter. We still have a long way to go. But the coming week bodes well for securing a sizeable slice of the wheat harvest – always bearing in mind, of course, that some of those +4 maturity ratings on the RL are looking more like +10 days in the field!

And now for drilling OSR while we have moisture. With luck we’ll get conditions good sowing and establishment right through to mid-September.

but where are the markets?

With wheat prices falling from the mid £190’s to the mid £140’s a 24 tonne load of wheat leaving the farm is earning us £1,200 less than last autumn.  And with OSR it’s about £2,000 less.

OK, I know after last year you were saying you weren’t going to sell until you knew what you had in the shed. But, seeing the crops in the field over the last few months, for the life of me I can’t understand why so many people have just sat there watching the market fall. It’s about risk management and building your average price. Certainly, the more switched-on have been doing this to good effect.

At the moment boats are arriving for barley to North Africa. I strongly suggest selling into this opportunity as we’re set for have a rare old feed surplus that that’ll need exporting. As malting samples come forward early contracts look like paying well. Spot markets, though, are under price pressure. So watch out if you sell for cash or store until the New Year.

With large acreage and good samples, oats are under pressure for movement as they’re up against imports. Thankfully, things are far more positive with peas and beans. But I certainly wouldn’t sit back at current values as they look higher than the French competition.

I’m also advising customers to keep releasing on wheat steadily, hoping we’ll see increased demand for soft wheats and even UK Gp 1s and 2s which are now at price parity with German A wheats.

Given the current market, it’s not surprising a lot of oilseed rape is going into store. Prices have recovered by around £15 on the back of recent soya concerns. Which means it may well pay to hold back unless you need to move.

It’s clear many of us need to re-learn some marketing risk management essentials this autumn. We know what we’re planning to plant and pretty soon (weather permitting) we’ll have it in the ground and growing. So we need to think about taking some cover now and building it as the season progresses? Futures may not be where they were, but mid-150s might just make sense with hindsight. Especially so, as world wheat production is increasing, stocks are building and harvest prospects for the key driver of US maize are looking reasonable.

Do give me a ring if you want to discuss this – or the outlook for oilseeds against the background of more fuel efficient care and the food v fuel politics.

Finally, how are things closer to home?

Not looking bad so far, I have to say. The hay cuts came off well and are nicely tucked away for the horse market. Early Excalibur (sub soiled in at 40 seeds m2) performed really well at 4.2 t/ha and went off 10 days ago at£360/t. Cassia (good for rolling for sheep) did 8.1t/ha and has all gone – bar what we need  here – onto boats at early values to average around £155. We’re getting into wheat this week, although with some nervousness about possible heat damage four weeks back. However, the sample is bright and I think bushel weights will be good, albeit with small grains. OSR planting this week too – Excalibur and ExPower.

For my part – diary permitting – I’ll be trying to keep up a short weekly Blog to air current topics and concerns of the day and get your feedback.  As ever, there’s more than enough to debate so I very much look forward to hearing how things are going with you and any business concerns you have.  

I’m also looking forward to the extra range of trials, demonstrations and activities we have planned at our 30-plus i Farms around the country and our five developing regional Technology Centres in the coming season.  It’s all part of the market-leading, multi-million pound R&D expansion we’re delivering to bring you the very best agri-intelligence in the business. Watch out for your autumn meeting invitations. I hope to catch-up with you there.

In the meanwhile, happy combining and all the very best for what looks like being a far better harvest that we could have expected just three months ago, and – the Good Lord willing – some excellent autumn drilling conditions too.

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