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Scottish harvest stalls as haulage firms struggle to keep up

Slow uplift of harvested grain combined with very poor prices for non-contract barley have combined to make this a difficult season for Scottish farmers already struggling with the weather.

It has been a perfect example of a stop-start harvest but spring barley yields have mostly been well above average and stores have filled quickly.

 

This is a perennial issue but it has been made worse this year by higher than usual rejection rates and a shortage of suitable bulk transport.

 

NFU Scotland has written to key organisations in the supply chain to seek answers to the problem.

 

Combinable crops chairman Ian Sands said: “As a result of the weather, growers are experiencing rejections for grain grown for quality markets because of issues such as sprouting and germination. The knock on from that is a surplus of feed grain on farm, with limited storage and limited demand.

 

Uncertainty

 

“For feed grain, Brexit uncertainty is a factor in halting a lot of merchant purchases. This is grain that would have been expected to find a ready demand for export but the threat of a no-deal Brexit; and the potential for tariffs of over £80 per tonne on exports to the EU and zero per cent tariffs on imports are significantly undermining market prospects.

 

“It remains to be seen whether ongoing political wrangling and the possibility of a ‘no deal’ being take off the table provide a floor to the export market in the short-term.”

 

On haulage he said there had been a long-standing reduction in hauliers and vehicles suitable to haul grain. Rejections at intake and grain being returned to farm was exacerbating the pressure on hauliers.


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Ian Muirhead, policy manager for trade organisation AIC Scotland, said the processors did not have the extra capacity and the situation was made worse by the ‘highly competitive’ haulage industry.

 

In any other industry, he said, ‘lorries can deliver more loads in a day and earn more money’.

 

A spokesman for the Road Haulage Association (RHA) said many hauliers had been forced to take on extra drivers in order to meet the necessary timescales.

 

He said: "This is a particularly intense period for farmers and grain hauliers alike who are all utilising every possible resource to move the grain within the acceptable time frames.

 

"Many hauliers are taking on extra drivers to cover the additional movements but this
is a short period of 6 to 8 weeks where all hands are to the pump.

 

"For the hauliers who move grain, this is their harvest too, and everyone wants to meet
the necessary time scales using every truck accredited to carry out the work."

 

Mr Sands reckoned spot prices for feed barley were 30 per cent down on a year earlier and that many crops would now be sold at below cost of production.

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