Farmers encouraged to consider grain marketing plans as harvest gets underway

With the Scottish harvest underway, the latest market update from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) suggests it is more important than ever for growers to consider how this year’s cereals and oilseeds will be marketed.

The report shows a significant shift to spring planting, especially in England. When combined with Covid-19 related issues, this may have a significant impact on post-harvest movements of grain in Scotland.

Willie Thomson, NFU Scotland’s Combinable Crops chairman, said: “It was inevitable that last year’s dismal autumn would result in a shift to spring planting.  That has had a bigger impact south of the Border as autumn-sown crops normally dominate plantings in England.

“GB-wide, the area of wheat and winter barley sown is estimated to be down 27%, but the spring barley area is up 52%.  On the plus side, Scotland’s oilseed rape plantings went up slightly compared with a 28% fall in England.

“There remains uncertainty in the market for Scottish grain and oilseed. The Covid-19 lockdown limited whisky production, which has not yet fully recovered, while the closure of hospitality venues and airport shops, combined with US tariffs on malt whisky, has hit whisky sales.

While it looks as if action has been taken within the grain sector to minimise any shortage of storage at harvest, continuing Covid-19 precautions may slow the processes at grain intakes and there remains some concern over haulage availability.

“That means growers should be prepared to hold grain on-farm longer than normal, especially any grain that is not already committed to an end-user and that may mean additional drying of grain will be needed.

“Most growers will have a proportion of uncommitted grain to ensure they can fully meet contracted sales.

“Last year’s big harvest resulted in problems getting such extra grain moved including tonnages that had been contracted.  Although above-average grain yields are not expected this year, there could still be issues around the market and logistics.

As well as monitoring the grain prices being reported by AHDB, growers who have not already had conversations with their buyers about contracted sales and any expected surplus should do so now.

“Most importantly, with this being Farm Safety Week, growers need to keep themselves safe this harvest.

“As combines, tractors, balers, trailers, grain dressers, dryers and augers all gear up, I urge all Scottish growers to avoid any temptation to cut corners that would put them at risk.  Let’s bring this year’s harvest home safely.”