Farm inputs at a glance

March 2022

These figures show key changes in spending on-farm, looking at costs such as feed, fertiliser and fuel. For a visual representation, view the Farm inputs at a glance pdf showing the latest infographics at the bottom of the page.

Key farm inputs explained

Fuel

Oil continues to strengthen as the global economy recovers after Covid-19, and geopolitical tensions now start to colour the picture. Overall, prices remain supported by a tight physical market, partly a legacy of the drop in exploration and production capital expenditure programmes during the past two years. Any restriction on output whilst demand continues to increase will result in continued support for prices.

Investment bank forecasts for oil prices in 2022 have been seen ranging from $80/bbl to $125/bbl. The oil price has dramatically increased over the past year, but the low demand in 2020 led to very low crude oil prices and percentage increases can give the wrong impression. For much of 2021, average prices were lower than both 2018 and 2019 for the same period, although this is no longer the case.

We see the same patterns in red diesel with prices for 2021 higher than 2020, and certainly on an upward track for now.

Latest fuel prices

Our fuel price tracker page features monthly price trends red diesel and crude oil.

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Power

European electricity prices achieved multi-year highs in 2021. Power demand has recovered as Covid measures are lifted, in varying degrees, around the world. In Europe in particular, low wind speeds over the summer have curtailed power supplies from wind generation, leading to more consumption of natural gas in electricity production. More recently, sharp increases in gas and carbon prices have supported power plants’ marginal costs, and the price of wholesale electricity.

Extremely strong gas prices are a result of several factors. A cold winter in 2020/21 drew down storage levels, which have not been fully replenished. European gas production, and flows of gas from Russia have both been lower than expected. Liquefied Natural Gas prices (imported to the UK on ships) in Asia remain strong, as eastern markets compete with Europe to secure supplies.

There continues to be a general and widespread bullishness across the energy complex, now also fuelled by political tensions. Gas prices remain volatile but generally elevated, and with plenty of winter left to go, the market is likely to remain on edge. These issues are by no means confined to the UK.

Monitoring energy use

Explore news, guidance and resources focused on energy use on farm.

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Hay and straw

Straw prices retreated dramatically in the summer, having been driven up until then by the restricted straw supply from 2020 harvest. Barley and wheat straw prices now trade in a relatively stable range around £60/tonne and £50/tonne respectively.

Whilst planting for the 2021 harvest was not as problematical as the recent past, there continues to be increased interest in no till, residual and straw incorporation cultivation techniques. This could have a long-term downward impact on future straw supply.

The final figures from the 2021 season of grass growth have now been recorded which confirm that it’s been a challenging year. However, many producers have excelled in the face of difficult conditions, some producing average yields across the farm as high as 12 tonnes of dry matter (DM) per hectare, despite constraints on growth. And although the peak in growth was higher than in the previous two years, the average was lower, at 9.2t DM/ha across the GrassCheckGB monitor group.

The second week of January reports hay at £67 per tonne.

 

Latest hay and straw prices

Find out the latest prices for big bale hay, big square baled barley straw and big square baled wheat straw in England and Wales. 

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UK feed ingredient prices

Feed wheat

Feed wheat prices have continued to firm throughout the second half of 2021, with nearby futures reaching record highs in November. Both globally and domestically, the market is tight. In the US and Canada, weather extremes during the 20/21 crop year negatively impacted harvest 2021 production. Exports from Russia have been levied with export taxes this year too, curtailing their shipments to the global market. While UK wheat production in 2021 rebounded to 14Mt, we entered the season with the tightest opening stocks this century. This, coupled with increased haulage and freight costs, is likely to keep prices supported, at least until the 2022 Northern Hemisphere crop comes online.

Feed barley

Feed barley prices have tracked the global grain market, rising accordingly throughout the season. While the discount to feed wheat has reduced, barley has not lost as much of its attractiveness as first thought, given the lack of liquidity in the wheat market. Given the six-month outlook for global grain prices, it remains likely that barley will continue to receive support from these.

Maize

Maize prices have climbed throughout the second half of 2021. Currently, world markets are banking on a sizeable South American crop to support demand. However, La Nina concerns in Brazil and Argentina are causing nervousness, supporting prices. Equally, while the price incentive is there for US growers, increased fertiliser costs could see area expansion curbed. Any threats to a sufficient supply for 2022 will keep prices moving north.

Soyabeans

As with maize, the world needs record production this season to satisfy demand. Good crush margins and Chinese buying are continuing to support this side of the equation. However, record South American production forecasts are already being walked down, due to unfavourable weather conditions. This is keeping funds long and therefore prices supported. This, and US area (of which we will have a first look on 31 March), will be key in price determination in the months ahead.

Latest UK feed ingredient prices

Check the weekly trends in prices for imported and domestically produced animal feed products.

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Fertiliser

Fertiliser production and pricing is impacted by the global fertiliser industry and the availability of raw materials. Raw material prices, most notably for urea and phosphate, have been increasing, resulting in global NPK prices rising sharply during 2021 to reach multi-year highs.

High and volatile natural gas prices have dominated the headlines, and are key to the cost of producing Ammonium Nitrate (AN) both as fuel and feedstock. When it comes to AN pricing, there is unlikely to be much relief throughout the spring.

Having been curtailed in response to high gas prices late last year, some UK domestic production has since restarted. UK product is understood to be competitively priced compared with imports, however, if for some reason domestic supplies should become limited, it is not clear if imported alternatives could be sourced quickly, or at what price.

Globally, urea production has been impacted as there has been a higher rate of maintenance in 2021 as a result of delayed maintenance in 2020 due to Covid. As countries have started to emerge from the impact of Covid, energy use has increased, and fertiliser prices have been supported by the very strong oil and gas markets.

In December 2021 global potash spot prices were at 13-year highs due to increased demand on the back of the spike in crop prices. Increased demand was not matched by supply. The EU had already imposed sanctions on product from Belarus, and the US followed. These sanctions led to a further shortage in supply and therefore further support to prices. Short-term logistical issues have prevented Canadian producers from increasing output.

Phosphate price increases have been driven by a combination of increased demand and increase in the cost of producing ammonia, as well as fuel required in production.

The global fertiliser market is likely to remain a sellers’ market in the short term as fertiliser producers continue to increase prices due to the higher cost of raw materials.

 

Latest fertiliser information

Find out monthly average prices and subscribe to regular updates.

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Download the poster

You can download a handy A4 poster showing the latest farm input costs as at February 2022. Click below for your Farm inputs at a glance pdf.


Contact us

This dataset was produced by our Data and Analysis Team. To find out more about the team, please visit the Data and Analysis team page.

If you need any further help, please email Martin, Ian, Esther or Dorian at datum@ahdb.org.uk

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