Rapeseed producers are facing an economic challenge every bit as severe as fellow farmers in other parts of the industry.
Recent figures from the Rural Business Research unit showed oilseed rape production costs in 2013/14 were £408/ tonne on English cereals farms (average rapeseed price for the period was £300.75). Since 2013/14 rapeseed prices dropped sharply and even with a brief rise at the turn of 2015/15, have remained below the cost of production for two years now. While not every crop is profitable every year and oilseed rape has been grown to provide rotational benefit to following wheat crops, this rotational value is being stretched with negative margins in wheat too.
British farmers have to cope with market price volatility in grains. Direct and indirect access to agricultural commodity futures markets has been a key component in helping manage price fluctuations. This year there have been calls to change the oil and moisture content in the MATIF futures contracts use to hedge price risk for British rapeseed. While NFU has heard this week that these proposals have withdrawn, threats like this and new financial market regulation that would lead to further erosion of growers profitability are still in the wings.
NFU has recently secured limited but much-needed access to insecticide seed treatment for oilseed rape growers planning to establish crops this summer, particularly in areas very badly affected in 2014/15. Much of next year’s crop remains under threat in the rest of the country and NFU has helped secure approval from regulators for a foliar treatment for those farmers without access to insecticide treated seed.
Times are tough for oilseed producers, and while there’s little we can do about global commodity prices, the examples here are just a few of the places where NFU is offering help to regulators to avoid making the tough economics of crop production even more difficult.