UK Harvest Commences

UK Combinable Crop Harvest – What should we Expect?

The harvest is in its early stages; this year a little earlier than usual.  Over the last six weeks, the UK has received minimal or no rain (at least in England) with June receiving only 25% of the normal levels, and July just as parched so far.  Consequently, some crops across the country will have been too dry to yield properly.  Before that, of course, though March, April, and the first half of May, the UK received 50% more rain than normal, leaving those areas with strong soils and healthy levels of organic matter, with a long-lasting moisture reserve.

Crops were late emerging from winter dormancy or being planted often into cold, wet spring soils and so had a lot of growing up to do in a short amount of time.  This alone reduced expectations of harvest yield.  But it is possible that those crops on land strong enough to retain some moisture for a while may have done better than expected.  It appears that moisture held deep below the soil’s surface has, on may farms, been a lifeline for the survival of this year’s crops, with the sunshine and hot weather providing an opportunity for heavy, high bushel weight crops to develop.  It has been mentioned that this is the weather pattern that more continental countries experience every year, the Paris Basin included.  Crops on lighter soils though will presumably bring overall yield averages down.

OSR

More specifically, oilseed rape, whose harvest is now well under way, needed minimal swathing or spraying in many parts this year.  Some crops are dry but not completely mature, with brown seeds.  As yet, yields appear to have held up well, albeit maybe not a record season, even after moisture adjustments are accounted for.  Farmers should be careful not to harvest oilseed rape too dry as it can incur penalties if moisture levels are below 6%.

To recap, the standard FOSFA contract for oilseed rape is for 9% moisture.  You lose 1% of price if moisture goes up to 10% and gain 1% for every 1% the moisture falls down to 6%.  Below that point, it becomes difficult for a crusher to extract oils so could be unsellable.  Certainly, a penalty such as a blending charge with wetter seed would become payable.  It is worth getting the moisture right and if you’re not sure, keep it comfortably above 6%.

Barley

The barley harvest too is under way, with moderate to good yields, and excellent quality on the whole, although it is too early to reach big conclusions about national yields.  Bushel weights are high, meaning a greater tonnage might fit in the barn than usual.  It also means those farmers who take their own grain to a store, should beware of trailer weights; overweight vehicles tend not to be prioritised for tipping, or, if more road travel is required, not allowed back on the road.  Some hauliers might end up carrying too heavy a load; it is the driver’s responsibility and could be expensive to them.  It will catch some hauliers out.

Wheat

It is possible that the very first wheat crops are starting to be cut now, but it is too early to make any useful comments about it.  More next month.

This article is from Andersons’ AgriBrief Bulletin, a subscriber-based publication which provides readers with expert, concise and unbiased commentary on the key issues affecting business performance in the UK agri-food industry and what it means for you and your clients. For further information, including a free trial, please visit:

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Brexit Position Papers: Customs and Ireland

The UK has started publishing a series of ‘position papers’ on its approach to Brexit.  This, at least partly, is to counter the impression that it is ill-prepared for the negotiations compared to the EU.  It is believed that a dozen will be produced before October.  This is when a European Council Summit will decide whether there has been enough progress on the three key ‘divorce’ issues of citizens’ rights, Ireland and the Brexit bill, to move on to talk about the future trading relationship between the UK and EU.  The papers produced this month cover Customs arrangements and the Irish border.  Both papers tend to be somewhat vague on the detail of what is being proposed. 

The Customs paper reiterates that the UK will leave the existing EU Customs Union (CU) upon Brexit.  Confusingly, it then goes on to state that there should be a transition period before new arrangements come into force with ‘a new and time-limited Customs Union between the UK and the EU’.  Having a CU with the EU would limit the amount of upheaval and new procedures need at ports etc., but would also prevent the UK implementing trade deals with other countries.  It is unclear from the paper which is the Government’s priority because, despite its aspirations, the Government can’t do both. 

Longer-term, after the transition period, two options for a permanent customs arrangement are put forward.  Both are light on specifics and seem quite reliant on technological ‘fixes’ – worrying with the Government’s record on IT projects.  The first option would be for the UK and the EU to have a ‘normal’ customs border, but with the UK simplifying and streamlining where possible to make the arrangements ‘frictionless’.  The second option is a vaguely-defined ‘customs partnership’ which would see the UK ‘align’ its approach to that of the EU resulting in there being no need for a UK-EU customs border.  The paper itself states that this would be ‘unprecedented and challenging’.  Under both options the UK would be free to strike its own free-trade deals with other countries.  The paper can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/637748/Future_customs_arrangements_-_a_future_partnership_paper.pdf

On the issue of Ireland, in the position paper the Government commits to protect the Common Travel Area (CTA) between the UK and Ireland (which predates the EU) and to uphold the Belfast (‘Good Friday’) Agreement.  As part of the latter, it is affirmed that those in Northern Ireland will continue to be able to claim citizenship of Britain, Ireland, or both.  In terms of the border, the paper states a desire to have ‘no physical infrastructure’ whatsoever.  This suggest both people and goods will be able to freely cross the 310 mile border.  How this would be squared with leaving the Customs Union and having to police imports and exports is unclear.  The paper suggests that regulatory equivalence in agri-food measures should be maintained between the EU and UK to facilitate cross-border trade and minimise disruption to existing supply chains.  Although this would be welcomed by many in the Irish food industry, it may not go down well with Brexiteers wanting to escape ‘EU red-tape’.  It may also make agreeing trade deals with third countries more difficult.  The Irish paper can be found at – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/638135/6.3703_DEXEU_Northern_Ireland_and_Ireland_INTERACTIVE.pdf

In a further development, the Times has reported that the UK will allow Visa-free access to EU citizens.  This would people to travel to the UK, live, and even look for work without restriction.  However, those wishing to take up jobs will be required to have a Government-issued permit.  The number of permits would be vary by sector.  Assuming the number of permits was adequate, this approach might serve to allay some of the fears the food and farming sector has around access to labour after Brexit.