Straw: Demand strong, but early days for prices

Straw is in demand, with tillage farmers reporting plenty of orders in the past few weeks. However, a hold on price is harder to get with very little straw available at present.

Only a small amount of winter barley has been cut so far and where harvesting took place early in the week straw was not ready for baling after the combine. However, there has been movement at the end of this week.

A decline in straw yield has been expected as winter crops in many areas struggled from planting. Crop yields in general are expected to be back as a result of a tough season.

At present, yield reports are better in the south of the country, particularly in counties Cork, Waterford and Tipperary.

As some crops of straw begin to be picked up it is clear that yields are back. Some reports to AgriLand have been of declines in straw yield of 25% and 33%.

Prices

As so little straw is on the market at present, getting a confirmed price is rare and there is a large amount of speculation.

8X4X4 bales are reported to be making €60 (delivered) in some parts. One price reported to AgriLand in the midlands for 8X4X3 bales was €40 (without delivery).

There are reports of straw being taken on the flat at rates of €12 per round 4X4 bale taken off. If you add on €4/bale for baling and also add in handling and transport costs it might be a good option for those who want the hassle taken out of the job.

Going on the price of big square bales above, it is likely that 4X4s will be hitting in or around the €20 mark and no doubt regular customers will receive the lower prices.

AgriLand will keep an eye to prices over the harvest period. Buyers and sellers should bear in mind that there are a lot of factors at play.

Factors at play

Firstly the winter cereal area is down and the large crop of straw normally gained from winter barley will not be there.

The winter barley area is estimated at 51,249ha according to preliminary figures from the Department of Agriculture. That’s a decrease of 31,242ha on 2019.

Spring crops, particularly in the midlands and north-east of the country, are not going to be beating any yield records this year and crops are short, so straw yields from spring crops are expected to be back.

Crops down south are looking better, but only the combine and baler will tell the real story. A clearer picture will form in the coming weeks.

In June, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) estimated that barley straw will reduce by 300,000t and wheaten straw will reduce by 200,000t compared to 2019. This equates to a reduction in supply of 50%.

Where will demand come from?

There is clearly demand at present, but farmers also need to consider what is affecting demand and take a look and see are their customers returning or returning for the same numbers.

As the season moves on, where will the demand come from? Sales of beef rations are reported to be down by many mills and merchants. Will there be an appetite to buy straw among those customers?

Composters will no doubt declare prices when the winter wheat crop is ready for harvest.