Despite current strong wheat prices, arable farmers are being warned they face a challenging year ahead because of forward-sale prices and the poor quality of a proportion of the 2012 crop.
Members of the NFU are being advised to work on a detailed understanding of the quality of their grain, to combine sampling and analysis with segregation in stores – and to take action to improve quality before final movement.
It is imperative, says the NFU, that farmers know what the quality of wheat is and, if in doubt, to discuss before loading.
However, there still needs to be greater transparency of individual intakes, explaining how fallbacks are applied to specific weights, on a scale that multiplies the penalty as weight reduces, the union stresses. With the right information, and without the element of surprise, better transparency of the evidence for claims in the wheat sector would help to maintain improving relationships within supply chains.
Andrew Watts, the NFU combinable crops chairman, said: "Farmers generally recognise the facts about this year's harvest, and that it will need to be managed. We are challenging merchants and processors to help them by being much more transparent about the way in which claims are calculated. A difficult season will demonstrate where a farmer's interests are best served within the trade.
"We do not expect a penny-by-penny list for each claim, but we have not seen anyone publicly explain or query why claims on quality seem to be at odds with HGCA's work on specific weight and pig and poultry feed.
"The trade needs to be clear that any claims are consistent with those from a mill or compounder. In light of the difficult season, we have asked the AHDB to look at this work to help ensure future contract specifications are more relevant to the end use.
"There have been a number of disruptions that have shaken the grain industry – but progress has been made in recent seasons to build better grain trade relationships."