Straw prices continue to trend at high levels
Recently straw prices have been at record breaking highs.
Although there was a small month-on-month decline in June, prices were still well above year earlier levels. During June, the price of a big square bale of barley straw in England and Wales averaged at £99/tonne, £3 lower month-on-month but still £45 above year earlier levels, according to data from British Hay & Straw Merchants Association/Defra/Farmers Weekly. Similarly, the average price of a big square bale of wheat straw also fell £3, to £88/tonne. Straw prices typically come under pressure at this time of year, as the new crop of straw becomes available, however this year, any downward pressure comes from an elevated base. Production of straw this harvest in particular will be an important influence on prices through the autumn and winter.
GB harvest reports for 2018 are now being released regularly, with the most recent available here. Early yield figures indicate winter wheat yields appear to be between 5-8% below the five-year average. Meanwhile, yields for winter barley are currently estimated to be close to, or slightly below, the five-year average. Better yields are coming from heavier soils where more moisture has been retained during the recent drought.
The early yield estimates for winter wheat are based on harvested varieties in the South and East of England only, and therefore should be treated with some caution. Nonetheless, should these early yield findings be representative of the UK, production in 2018 could well be over 1Mt less than 2017.
On top of this, coming into this summer, straw supplies were believed to be lower than in previous years due to the late turn out. Industry reports are also suggesting that some producers are housing cattle instead of finishing off grass, which they would normally do at this time of year, further depleting straw supplies. Equally, the wheat planting area is believed to have decreased on year earlier levels, according to the AHDB Planting and Variety survey.
However, some reports are suggesting producers are baling more straw this year than last, instead of ploughing back into the ground. This could help boost straw availability in the coming winter.
Wheat and barley straw are commonly used as bedding in straw-based pig systems. However, there are alternatives available, which may be worth considering. Click here to find out more.
Rebecca Oborne, Analyst
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