With Brexit negotiations scheduled to conclude by October 31st farmers would be wise to keep their options open by selecting wheat varieties with both strong domestic and export market potential advises Martin Perry, Senior Trader at Bartholomews Agri Food Limited.
“With next year’s UK wheat harvest currently estimated to be over 16M tonnes there is also a possibility of a significant export surplus. If a no-deal scenario can be avoided, varieties that are ideal for export could command decent premiums” he explains.
“The European market uses different testing methods such as the Chopin Alveograph to measure how varieties bake and perform as bread rather than analysing Hagberg or specific weight as we do in the UK. The key to a varieties suitability is it’s extensibility as a dough and it is here that some UK Group 3 varieties, such as Elicit and Firefly, are very desirable for export into Iberian countries such as Portugal and Spain” says Mr Perry.
Despite the difficult timing of critical Brexit talks and the possibility of no-deal, Mr Perry still sees positive opportunities for UK growers about to make decisions on what varieties to drill this Autumn.
“Although farmers will need to make decisions before they know if there will be levy free trade into Europe next year, the positive is that there are wheat’s with the right baking characteristics that may still draw a premium that exceeds any likely import levy – even if we go into a no- deal situation. Even this year, following a difficult harvest of just 10M tonnes making the UK a net importer of wheat, remarkably there is still interest in Group 3’s such as Elicit and KWS Firefly for export. However, the key advantage for Elicit over Firefly is that we have 2 years of commercial data on it – against just 1 year of data on Firefly” he adds.
Tom Eaton, Trading Manager for Grain Trading and Origination at Glencore Agriculture UK, agrees that despite market uncertainty there is much to be gained from selecting the right Group 3 variety this Autumn.
“All UK millers who buy soft wheat for biscuit making buy Elicit. But, beyond demand from millers and, unlike other Group 3’s, Elicit also attracts significant interest in Scotland from distillers. With buyback contracts on Elicit guaranteeing an additional £5/t over feed wheat prices growing a Group 3 should be an attractive option for many growers” he confirms.
Barry Barker, National Arable Seed Product Manager for Agrii, also sees a positive future for Group 3’s – particularly for those varieties offering good disease resistance, reliable yields and multiple end uses.
“Although they represent around 10% of the total UK wheat area there are excellent reasons for growers to consider a Group 3 wheat this Autumn. For those looking at soft Group 3 wheat’s with good biscuit making characteristics then the 2 varieties to consider are Elicit from Elsoms Seeds and KWS Firefly.
Of the 2 I would favour Elicit. It has a stronger overall disease package – particularly on both brown and yellow rust, and a better specific weight. It’s flexible in either a first or second wheat position, has stiff straw and is relatively forgiving on spray timings – a useful trait given the extreme wet and dry weather patterns we have seen in recent months.
Following Agrii’s own trials over the last few years we also know Elicit has achieved our highest 4 star rating for it’s competitiveness against grass weeds – a major plus in bad blackgrass regions and in Scotland, where brome is a significant problem. Growers need to recognise the potential benefits of its multiple end use options and it’s attractiveness as an export variety. Elicit is not only the least variable of the current Group 3’s but also offers consistent high yields. It’s a low risk choice” he concludes.