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The good weather promised by the forecasters actually materialized at the start of the month and has been with us now for 14 days in England whereas in Scotland unsettled weather with some heavy rainfall has been more the norm. The good weather has allowed growers to complete harvest of winter barley and oil seed rape, harvest of wheat and spring barley in England is in full swing. Spring barley harvesting in Scotland will start this week in some early areas but in general crops are still 10-14 days away from being ready.


Winter Barley

With harvest finished we can now make a better assessment of yields and quality. Across the country it appears that the crop has under performed, yields are definitely down at least 10% with some light land crops reported at 30% below average. Malting varieties grown on the lightest soils have no doubt suffered more than those grown on better soils. Consequently Fanfare has had a very disappointing year and the variety will no longer be grown, the dry period in April and early May has resulted in very poor yields and high grain nitrogens, only 5% of samples testing below 1.65%, this for a variety, which in its heyday, produced large quantities of barley below 1.55%. Flagon has also suffered on the very lightest soils, but has done better over a wider range of soils and this autumn will replace the area previously sown to Fanfare. Pearl has performed best of all the main winter malting varieties, but here again the number of samples with low nitrogen is small. Overall it looks as if our harvest intake of winter malting barley will average about 1.75% TN with moisture the wrong side of 15%.  With 60% of our Maris Otter in store the picture looks slightly better than 2 weeks ago. Grain nitrogen will average about 1.65% with reasonable grain size, yields have been reduced for the same reason as other winter varieties and consequently the whole industry will struggle to secure sufficient Maris Otter to meet customer requirements.

Spring Barley

Intake of spring barley is starting this week with a large part of the crop harvested in Eastern and Southern England. Grain nitrogen in East Anglia appears to be lower than the winter barley; there are many samples below 1.65% across all varieties. In the south nitrogen levels may be a bit higher, but all samples seen so far are within normal specifications. Grain size is perhaps below average with the majority of samples in the range 75-85%> 2.50mm and 4-8 %< 2.25mm. For the exporters there will need to be significant use of screening plants to meet normal export specifications. Early reports of yield are encouraging given the lack of sunshine during the key grain fill period of late June and July. A more detailed analysis of performance by region and variety will be possible in 10 days time.


We expect harvesting of spring barley to start at the end of this week (weather permitting!). A recent tour of crops in the Central area and further north into Aberdeenshire and Moray confirms the view that Scotland has a potentially very good crop of barley, we expect low nitrogens and reasonable yields. The crops look uniform; the only draw back being that, like in England, lack of sunshine may have an impact on specific weight. The vast majority of crops are aimed at the malt distilling market; however several crops of varieties destined for the high nitrogen grain distilling market have significant areas of lodging. These crops are grown in high fertility sites, often on mixed farms, utilizing high levels of organic fertilizers, it appears the very high rainfall has led to much higher than normal mineralization and subsequent release of much higher than normal quantities of nitrogen which has kept the crops greener for much longer than normal producing potentially very high yields, so high that the straw can not support the ears!


With spring barley harvesting virtually complete in southern and central Europe and in progress in Scandinavia, the market is quiet pending a full assessment of the EU supply and demand situation.

Feed wheat is valued at £144 and feed barley £138 for harvest delivery in East Anglia. The last few parcels of winter barley in England that are available for prompt movement are bid in excess of £158 delivered to stores/ports. Early trades for spring barley for prompt movement were at equal levels but the market has moved quickly to levels in excess of £168 for delivery August/September. All prices in UK being heavily influenced by the large amount of interest from continental buyers for UK barley.

Danish/UK spring barley is bid around €270 FOB for October shipment with buying interest for crop 2008 at €230 FOB.

Bob King
Gt. Ryburgh
13th August 2007

Link to 30th July 2007 report

Link to 4th July 2007 report

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