‘Know where every tonne you grow is destined for’ – Openfield analyst Cecilia Pryce’s message to Norfolk farmers

Stoke Ferry Agricultural Society wheat competition 2017. Pictured from left, winter wheat winner Rob

Stoke Ferry Agricultural Society wheat competition 2017. Pictured from left, winter wheat winner Robert Smart, chairman John Hall, Cecilia Pryce of Openfield, and spring wheat winner Martyn Cockerill. - Credit: Archant

The changing role of East Anglian farmers in an uncertain global market place means they need greater understanding of who their customers are before planting their crops.

That was one of the messages from a senior market analyst as she spoke to west Norfolk growers at Stoke Ferry Agricultural Society's January meeting.

Cecilia Pryce, who works for grain-marketing co-operative Openfield, said Brexit trade deals, currency fluctuations and 'invisible barriers' to import such as GM regulations, consumer preference or quality issues could all dictate where future demand for cereals is coming from.

She said the destination for wheat could also be influenced by government policy on bioethanol production, whether there is a domestic shortfall of milling wheat, or if a production disaster in other countries – such as the last French harvest – has opened up export markets for feed wheat in places like North Africa.

'As farmers I would urge you to know where every tonne you grow is destined for, and make sure you are growing the right thing for the market,' she said. 'The long and short of it is in a bad year we need to be able to import to replace the quality we need and to be able to export what is left over.

'As Brexit comes along, the thought process of: 'I have got some of this and it grows well here', might not be the best way to go forward. We need to think about destination markets and every penny is going to count at some point.'

Ms Pryce said there could be risks associated with trade flow issues if Britain leaves the single market, but as the UK is such a small player, only supplying less than 2pc of the world's wheat, 'we may just have to shut up and get on with it'.

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'A single market would be very nice,' she said. 'If there is no single market, we all need to sit back and have a stiff cup of coffee and work out what it means to us.

'The important thing for farmers is knowing the difference between what goes in the ground and what people are eating and what they are prepared to pay for it.

'Ultimately price will dictate trade flow and farmers' growing patterns. A 12 Euro import tax to and from the EU would dictate what every single person in this room puts in the ground.'

• Stoke Ferry Agricultural Society's champion growers were also honoured at the meeting, as prizes were presented for the club's annual wheat competitions.

The winter wheat trophy winner was Robert Smart from Marshland St James, with a specimen of Cordiale with a bushel weight of 85.2kg/hl. The spring wheat prize went to Martyn Cockerill of Oxborough Farms, with a 78.4kg/hl sample of Mulika.