The wet weather which has already hurt UK's farmers' 2012
harvest, and autumn plantings, is threatening efforts to make a make-up with
spring sowings too, and is still keeping many growers from their fields.
The new year as brought drier conditions to many parts of
the country, although the south west in particular has continued to be dogged
However, fields remain widely waterlogged, preventing
machinery getting on to land to finish winter crop sowings – typically completed
by November – or prepare for the spring seeding window.
"We are getting towards the early spring planting season
now," Jack Watts, senior analyst at the HGCA crop bureau, said.
"Conditions are not favourable for an early start to spring
And these sowing conditions, "will be as influential, if not
more influential, than the outlook for returns" in farmers' on spring sowing
plans, and their ability to fulfil them, Mr Watts told Agrimoney.com.
The comments follow a dismal autumn sowing period, in which
only some 80% of planned plantings were completed because of waterlogged soils,
and with much of what was sown lost to flooding and slug attacks.
One Oxfordshire farmer Agrimoney.com spoke to on Monday
estimated losses of 80% of his winter rapeseed to slugs.
The extent of still-unplanted land, on which the HGCA is in
March to unveil more detailed estimates, has created the prospect of a
historically-large spring seeding programme.
Spring milling wheat, a minority crop in England, has - unusually
– overtaken malting barley as appearing the most profitable spring choice, on
HGCA calculations, although the bureau advised growers to ensure a market for
the grain before choosing it for seeding plans.
Crop margin forecasts for English spring sowings, according to HGCA
Milling wheat: £828 per hectare
Feed wheat: £794 per hectare
Milling oats: £728 per hectare
Human consumption beans: £663 per hectare
Malting barley: £634 per hectare
Feed barley: £615 per hectare
The forecast reflects expectations of a doubling in the
discount of barley to wheat, of £20 a tonne, given the poor prospects for the winter
wheat crop, and a drop to £15 a tonne, from £40 a tonne, in malting barley
premiums."A rebound in European malting barley production in 2012 has
been detrimental to premiums," said HGCA market specialist Lloyd Dixon.
The gross margin on milling oats is also, at £728 a tonne,
relatively strong, down in part to growing domestic food demand for the grain, deemed
to have health benefits in for example fighting cholesterol.
However, issues such as weather and availability of seed
would have a big input into plantings choices, whatever the theoretical
returns, Mr Dixon said.