Industry concern over rising straw prices

Pig producers have expressed concerns about rising straw prices, with prospects for harvest yields heavily affected by the unfavourable weather that has hit the 2020 growing season.

Prices are already rising across the country and, following the wet autumn, winter and spring, supplies of winter wheat and barley straw are expected to be tight, with a mixed picture reported of spring crops.

The British Hay & Straw Merchants Association is currently quoting average wheat straw prices at £75/tonne and barley straw at £83/t in the South West, with wheat straw prices elsewhere typically in the £50-55 range and barley straw between £50-£60/t. While not significantly above annual averages for the time of year, the expectation is that prices will continue rising.

At the latest online NPA Pig Industry Group (PIG) meeting, representatives from all five regions highlighted straw price and availability as a concern for producers.

NPA vice chairman Rob Mutimer said straw is ‘desperately short’ in the eastern region, while Rattlerow’s Robin Lawson added that straw prices are ‘already creeping up’. “I was quoted £65/tonne on straw delivered next month – it is getting higher and higher,” he said.

Devon producer Andrew Freemantle joked he would ‘bite someone’s hand off’ for £65/tonne in the South West, adding that producers there have been facing high prices for some time.

The concerns were echoed by North and South Central representatives, while Midlands representative Sam Godfrey predicted that straw yields will be down in the region this harvest. “We are not expecting a big yield, although it might be that more acres will get baled,” he said.

Arable farmers describe the overall picture as ‘variable’, with high quality straw likely to be in high demand. “We have quite a lot of straw despite some indifferent crops, but others are really struggling,” one said.

NPA senior policy Ed Barker, who lives in the east of the country, said crops are very variable, with some growers happier than others. “However, I think for many the recent rain came too late and missed that growth stage. Early yield results will be interesting though. I think everyone is expecting below average yields,” he said.

A prolonged period of straw shortages and high prices in 2018 affected pig producers across the country and also generated debate about the use of straw for energy production.

You can read more the latest NPA PIG meeting here

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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.