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Reaping the Benefits of the Summer So Far: Read Bruce Stevenson’s Latest Farming Insights

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Reaping the Benefits of the Summer So Far: Read Bruce Stevenson’s Latest Farming Insights

September 07
07:14 2017

Talk of an early harvest has lulled some farmers into something of a false sense of security but as Scotland recovers from arguably one of its most underwhelming summers on record, the current picture tells a different story.

Jean Arnott-Glennie provides further insight into Scotland’s farming sector at this crucial time of year…

This year’s notably mild winter resulted in little frost to kill off any weeds and bugs, and the six-week springtime drought impacted on the crops as well as straw required for livestock bedding. To make matters worse, as we headed into agricultural show season, rain and thunderstorms took over, and all of a sudden it became a wet and rather unremarkable summer.

In the 10 years I have been directly involved with day-to-day farming, the date that we start our spring crop harvest each year has only varied by a week to 10 days, albeit with the silage crop start and finish dates fluctuating more with the changing weather and resultant grass quality and quantity.

Having said all that, crops this year are looking reasonable, although those who were early with their sowing do not appear to have secured a premium yield. The dry spell in early spring resulted in slow germination in some locations, especially in sandy soils, while those who were later in sowing their crops appear to have attained a higher yield and straw length than previously predicted.

By the end of July, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) had reported that 50% of winter barley had been harvested, alongside 27% of winter oil seed rape in Scotland and that ‘the better yields are tending to come from heavier soil types’.

On lighter land, meanwhile, yields as low as 5.5 t/ha were reported for the more water-stressed crops.

Worryingly, the AHDB Supply and Demand report noted that the UK is forecast to be a net importer of wheat in 2016/17 and enters the new marketing season with a relatively lower level of stocks. They also forecast that barley exports are set to fall by 50% year-on-year, to the lowest level since 2012/13.  In addition the increase in biofuel demand has increased consumption of domestic maize this season.

However the annual steady increase in the demand for milling oats has continued.

So, what does this mean to the individual farmer? Well, the lower stock of wheat being retained from last year means there may be higher demand which in turn could affect the trading price in a positive direction, for those not already in contract.

Those who are in contract may see more leniency in terms of acceptability limits if the market price rises higher than the contracted premium per tonne.Malting barley export reductions possibly reflect the increased domestic demand for brewing and distilling and the call for Scottish ingredients for geographically sensitive products.

Meanwhile, the continued interest in renewable energy such as anaerobic digestion and biomass/biogas plants is resulting in increased use of maize and silage, rather than it being used in food production.

And the market for milling oats is buoyant, with several types of interested purchasers for various manufacturing products and thus most quality standards of oats are being sold or contracted for purchase later in the season.

Jean Arnott-Glennie is a Farms & Estates Account Executive at Bruce Stevenson Insurance Brokers.


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Catering Scotland

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