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Rollercoaster ride for grain trade
HAVING just had a long chat with my old friend Derek Padgett of Argrain, I have concluded that there is little to choose between the stress of running an auctioneering business and a grain merchants at the moment.
I will give you a brief report on the state of the grain market as at the time of writing, but it may all have changed when the paper lands on your breakfast table.
On Monday, for example, the market for oil seed rape moved up and down £5/tonne in a matter of three hours, leaving buyers bewildered in no-man’s land.
Looking at OSR, the price has dropped £30 to £40/tonne in the last two weeks, mainly driven by the publication of the American Department of Agriculture figures.
Its value today, and, indeed at harvest, is hovering at around £360/tonne, which will no doubt leave the odd few who sold forward at £400 very smug.
The countryside does look colour-washed with bright uncompromising yellow and superficially, the prospects for OSR yields look good. However, the acid test will be whether or not the pods have set, and this in turn depends upon pollination over the past cold weeks.
On the wheat front, the price is still hovering around £170, up or down a bit dependent on the day you do the deal.
Harvest forecasts are £150/tonne plus or minus, and with premiums for the quality wheats.
Feed barley, strangely enough, is driven not so much by the world market at the minute, but by the demand from our own farmers. Today’s price is similar to wheat, about £168 to £170/tonne.
Harvest for barley is £140 to £145, with malting barley now mostly on contract at a premium price above feed.
That should bring you up to date and my thanks to Derek for his views on the inside track. But, as he points out, today’s trade is much more affected than we know by financiers who do not want to invest in mortgages, but would rather put their money into grain futures.
Supermarket fight with ombudsman
NOW that the Grocery Adjudicator Bill is set to go through Parliament, the big supermarkets are lining up to whinge and defend their position.
But their protestations of innocence don’t have the ring of truth.
Cleverly, the Government propose making those retailers with a turnover of more than £1 billion liable for the costs of the new ombudsman who will earn about £200,000 per annum if you want to apply for the job.
His remit will be to ensure the code of practice is upheld, and that supermarkets do not, as has been frequently found in the past, abuse their suppliers, most of whom are too frightened of recrimination to protest.
The ombudsman will have teeth and, having taken evidence from third parties or industry organisations, can then fine the offending retailer.
The measure is long overdue and there is no doubt that supermarkets are driven by their own short-term financial performance, which all too often leads them to abusing their significant market powers and treating suppliers unfairly.
Scottish wind farm goes up for sale
I NOTICED with interest that a small wind farm has just come on the market in Scotland with five turbines and a capacity of 6.5 Mw.
It stands on 63 acres of fairly remote Scottish moorland and currently produces an annual income of £58,000 per annum, which will almost double on the next review date in 10 years’ time.
The asking price is £725,000 which means there is an eight per cent return for investors.
The windfall planning consent, if you will pardon the pun, has lifted the value of the land by five to 10 times, and the question posed by some egalitarians is whether part of the gain should not drip down to those in the locality also affected by the presence of the giant turbines.
Mindless activists damage GM crops
I LISTENED the other night to a pretty heated debate on Newsnight about the latest attempt to hold an innocuous, but important, field trial on a crop of wheat.
As I understood it, this genetically-modified plant could give off an aroma which deterred aphids and by so doing would reduce the need to spray.
On the one side was the professorial scientist leading the trial explaining it’s objective and its possible great benefits.
On the other side was a highly emotive American lady from Arkansas, who described herself as a farmer prepared to defend the planet. For me, she was not the archetype British farmer, but so be it.
The professor pleaded for the antis to wait for the results of the trial or at least engage in a debate, but the angry lady was not for moving.
Last weekend a man broke in to the trial site and caused significant damage, but thankfully failed to disrupt the experiment.
He has been arrested and hopefully flogged with the wheat plants he has ripped up. Surely nothing can be more eco-friendly than a trial which sets out to reduce sprays.
Arla and Milk Link merger is announced
ONLY a week after the German dairy company Muller announced its takeover of Robert Wiseman Dairies, there has been a further rationalisation in the industry with the full merger of Arla Foods and
the dairy cooperative Milk Link.
The two have already been combining in some joint ventures and indeed Milk Link is a partial supplier of raw milk to Arla.
The merger is held out to be beneficial to suppliers, but I do wonder a little about the dominance of our industry by overseas owners. Arla is a Scandinavian and German farmer-owned company.
Food festival scores success
THE Fitzwilliam Estate deserves hearty congratulations for its very successful weekend Food Lovers Festival.
It was supported by a cast of thousands and brought a lot of footfall into the centre of the town.
It’s interesting the feedback you get from those visiting the town, which tends to be all positive about how lovely the place is, compared to those of us in residence who are inclined to look on the darker side.
Perhaps it’s us that should change