Long Term Prospects Mask Short Term Arable Gloom

Scottish arable farmers left the UK’s major arable event, Cereals 2010, with a positive view of long term prospects for grain but focussed on short-term concerns over price prospects and uncertainty over input costs.

A delegation from NFU Scotland’s Combinable Crops Committee spent several days at the event in Cambridgeshire, meeting with colleagues in NFU England and Wales as well as various trade representatives.  The visit included viewing variety trials being run by Nickerson Seeds at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk.

NFU Scotland Vice-President Allan Bowie, part of the Union’s Cereals 2010 party, said:

“With reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) looming large, this successful event provided the perfect platform for growers to highlight the hugely important role that arable production has to play in underpinning food and farming across the EU, both now and post-CAP Reform in 2013.   The CAP Reform debate presents us with the opportunity to ensure that progressive, productive growers receive due recognition of the contribution they make to key policy areas such as food security and the environment.

“Discussions at Cereals 2010 suggest that the long-term signs for our sector are good with positive signals on price, production and growing demand.  However, those same discussions also indicate that there may be some pain to endure before we get to that stage and uncertainties over currency, input prices and carryover of stocks are casting a shadow over the 2010 harvest prospects.

“For Scotland, maltsters continue to keep their cards close to their chest on price prospects for spring barley this autumn but it is clear that the continued carryover of barley from the 2009 harvest is likely to be a factor.  For wheat, the development of the biofuels sector in the South of England and Holland should help raise the tone of the overall market.   We would hope that the ripples from any price improvements would stretch to Scotland and help protect the premium we see on wheat prices here.

“On inputs, fertiliser manufacturers have yet to reveal prices for this autumn but their comments regarding oil prices and currency fluctuations would suggest that they are warming us up for some disappointing news.  Many growers will have budgeted on nitrogen coming in at under £200 per tonne – we would hope that is achievable.”

Speaking after the visit to the Nickerson Seeds variety trials, Combinable Crops Committee Chairman, John Picken added

“The quality of the work being done by Nickersons simply highlighted how very important it is for the Scottish arable sector, and ultimately our multi-billion pound drinks industry, that more resources are put to variety trials in Scotland. 

“We know that varieties react differently in the North from the South.  In Scotland, the poor performance of a Spring oilseed rape variety last year helped to underline the importance of trialling varieties in Scottish conditions to identify if crop failure or yield loss is an issue.  

“We must avoid an ethos that simply replaces ‘old’ with ‘new’ but reassure ourselves that any new varieties are significantly superior when grown commercially in Scotland before replacing those that we currently rely on.  We must raise the bar to a level that gives the grower added advantage in traits like bushel weight, disease resistance as well as yield.  Otherwise all we do is pay more for varieties that give the same return. 

“Given the commitment of breeders and growers to improving quality, we also want our end customers to recognise the benefits for their businesses.  If genetic improvements increase the spirit yields from our malting barley, then we would hope that the financial benefits generated for the distillers would be reflected in the prices that they pay for the raw materials.”


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006


Date Published:

News Article No.: 91/10

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