Cereal quality has been mixed this harvest with later harvested grains, in particular, showing low Hagbergs in the case of milling wheat and high N levels in malting barley, not to mention pre-germination.
Tom Eaton, wheat trader at Glencore says milling wheat quality is very variable this harvest, ranging from very good with 80kg/hl specific weights, 400 seconds Hagbergs and 14 per cent protein to sprouting grains where Hagbergs have gone below specification and specific weights are low.
“Geographically, most issues are on the south coast. Wheat was fit but it rained off and on for 2-3 weeks. Where wheat was fit – it was an early year – it didn’t stand the rain; it sprouted and the Hagbergs went. Some varieties went before others.”
There were also issues in north Wiltshire, Dorset, south Oxfordshire and Bedfordshire but further north in East Anglia and south Lincolnshire, crops fared better, he says. “In Kent and Essex a lot is in the barn safely and of good quality.”
However, the large area of milling wheat varieties planted for this harvest means imports are unlikely to increase at this stage, says Mr Eaton. “There is a large area of Group 1s and 2s – 40 per cent of the wheat crop. We can afford for quite a bit to fail the milling spec before we are short.”
But the milling wheat premium over feed wheat is higher than it was last year, reflecting the uncertainties over quality, says Mr Eaton. “The milling wheat premium over feed is £15/t. Last year it was £5/t. I think it would have been less than £10/t if wheat was the same quality as last year.”
Jonathan Hoyland, barley and oat trader at Frontier says in winter malting varieties such as Venture N levels were ‘ok, as per normal’ and screenings were higher than ideal, but in the main they are useable and not so different from last year.
However, it is a different story as far as spring malting barley is concerned. Mr Hoyland says: “The main variety is Propino, accounting for almost 50 per cent of the total area. It has had high Ns with, in some areas, over 50 per cent being in excess of the usual 1.85 per cent N contract specification.
“It is causing a lot of head scratching regarding what maltsters can and can’t take. There are pockets of Propino in contract spec but this year there aren’t many low N samples to blend with high N so loading ships is going to be difficult when contract execution comes around. Planet and Irina have fared better in terms of N but with Irina there have been some screenings issues.”
Periods of drought earlier in the season followed by heavy rainfall could account for high N levels, he suggests, interfering with normal plant growth patterns.
Pre-germination of malting barley is also beginning to affect quality, says Mr Hoyland. “We are starting to see rejections at stores for later cut parcels.”
Such uncertainty means malting barley premiums are unlikely to collapse, says Mr Hoyland, although they have slipped in the last week to 10 days. “We are part of the European picture. The Danish crop is coming along with relatively normal protein, good yields and low screenings but France has also had high Ns to contend with.”
Despite reports of pre-germination in spring barley crops in some areas, this is unlikely to impact on seed availability, according to Chris Guest, seed manager at Gleadell.
“At the grain end there has been some impact on germination but that’s not to say it will be an issue. Most malting specs are 98 per cent germination whereas for seed germination the minimum standard is 85 per cent.”
Regarding winter cereals, while some varieties have had higher levels of screenings, these have been removed in the seed plant and germination has been better than anticipated, says Mr Guest. “I don’t see a difficulty in supply apart from favoured varieties. KWS Cassia is popular and has a good specific weight and quite quickly gets tight in supply but this is nothing we didn’t see last year.”
Lee Bennett, head of seeds business at Openfield and based in Lincs says he has only had to reject one load of wheat delivered for seed so far because of sprouting. “The rest of the stocks have been fine. The 1000 grain weights were 49s to 52s that we would expect in a usual season. Germination are all 97s. Some companies do a rapid germination test but I don’t think it’s the season to do this – we do a full germination test.”