Prices for barley straw have soared to highs of £90 for 8x4x3 bales imported from Britain as the availability of local straw grows increasingly scarce.

Other reports put similar-sized bales purchased in the past fortnight between £65 and £80, depending on bale weight.

That puts straw prices in the region of £200/t, up £50 to £60/t on prices reported back in late August when 8x4x3 bales were trading around £55 for delivery on farm.

Demand has increased significantly this autumn with a growing number of farmers wanting straw for winter feeding, bedding and calving.

No straw

However, most reports indicate supplies of local straw are more or less exhausted, with a major scarcity also developing in the Republic of Ireland.

That trend has brought a surge in imported straw from England and Scotland, and with demand exceeding supply, prices have responded accordingly.

Price quotes for 4x4 round bales are extremely hard to come by, but where available, bales delivered on farm are trading above £30 with reports of Irish straw costing north of €40 per bale.


The shortage in straw supply stems from a combination of factors. The wet summer and autumn created difficult harvesting conditions, while straw yields were also lower this year, particularly in spring crops where delayed planting and dry conditions in May caused crops to head out early.

The knock-on effect of the straw incorporation scheme in the Republic of Ireland also saw 70,000ha of straw being chopped, taking approximately 1.5m round bales out of circulation.

Imported straw

With a growing number of farmers importing straw from Britain to meet on-farm requirements, this practice is causing alarm among local cereal growers as it has the potential to accelerate the spread of blackgrass across NI.

Blackgrass is a noxious grass weed that grows interspersed through cereal crops, making chemical control extremely difficult.

The weed is a widespread problem in southern and eastern regions of England, but has migrated further north and west in recent years.

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