Harvest 2014: profit or problem

6 August 2014

I am writing this mid-harvest and generally, despite recent rains, it’s going well. Yields across the region are average or above average, quality is good and not too much cost is being incurred drying (yet!). However, some clouds have already come over the horizon and more are boding, so the question is: will the barns be full of profit or problems?

Swathes of Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire suffered severe hail damage in July. I saw rape harvested at 0.4 t/ha and 20% losses in barley. While there’s not much we can do about the weather, what about the issues where some control can be exercised?

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Collecting the leftovers after hail in Berkshire. This 38ha piece of Spring Barley Propino still yielded 7.5t/ha

Despite a network of high calibre central co-operative grain stores across the region, the majority of grain is still held on farm. Once in the store the problems may only just be starting – it sounds obvious but by revising AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds’ Grain Storage Guide you can help mitigate in-store losses in both quantity and quality.

I have had several conversations in recent weeks over the question of haulage – or lack of it. With a large harvest, it’s becoming a real issue to get lorries. This is a long term strategic issue around margins in bulk grain transport which the market will ultimately dictate. However, as farmers, you’ll find you get the best service from the limited resource by having good communication with your hauliers and loading efficiently. Be flexible, be quick and look after the driver. Straddling this topic and the next one, the AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Cereal Sellers Checklist will keep you on the boil.

The markets as ever are presenting their challenges.  Despite some opportunity for quality premiums, generally, however, the pressure is on. Whether high yields lead to a lack of storage capacity, or because of cashflow pressure, there is soon going to be a lot of grain on the market.  It’s been an expensive growing season and there are some high rents and depreciation locked into some systems, so it’s important to maximise sale returns or minimise losses against these high costs of production.

The updated CropBench+ tool is now available online to help you calculate your costs of production, which is imperative for starting your marketing decision process. With some seed, fertiliser and other input costs already secured for 2015 harvest, and prices now being quoted, it is not too early to start thinking about marketing a proportion of 2015 harvest either.

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View from the office window at home – getting stuck into winter wheat.

As you may have read from my previous entry, a clear message from my German trip last month was the value of farmer cooperation. We now have the first of our Monitor Farms up and running at Wantage and Crediton with two more to follow this autumn at Radstock and Alrersford. At these and other  Arable Business Groups in the region, there is the opportunity for groups of farmers to use CropBench+ to compare, contrast and challenge each other over key  elements that make up the cost of production. I would urge you to get involved.

One final thing – the homepage currently has a very useful Harvest Toolkit of links and resources which is worth having a look at.




Taunton-based Philip joined AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds from HSBC Agriculture, where he was Senior Agriculture Manager in the South West region. Having studied agriculture at university, Philip spent seven years as a Senior Business Management Consultant with ADAS before developing his career with HSBC. He brings substantial business management experience to the Regional Team, and a detailed understanding of the complexities of the industry in the region.