Spring 2021 Season Round Up
As the summer months roll in and our attention turns to the upcoming catch crop period, it is time to reflect on yet another busy season. Just five months ago, we could be forgiven for our anxiousness going into the new year. Covid cases were soaring in December, and the industry was bracing for the impact of new Brexit legislation, providing us with yet more difficult challenges. Nevertheless, we have been as busy as ever! The new year brought turning fortunes; covid cases were in decline, the country started unlocking and we began to acclimatise to the new Brexit regulations. Spring 2021 was well and truly underway!
The amenity market has once again been hectic. With consumers continuing to focus on home improvements and their own outdoor spaces, lawn seed sales continue to surge in the British market. The coronavirus pandemic has changed the priorities of many. Building and maintaining our gardens has become not only therapeutic, but also a way of reconnecting with nature during a time where we were confined to our homes. Online retailers have particularly benefitted from the pandemic, and the businesses that adapted to this shift early were the ones who reaped the benefits. The shift in consumer attitudes over the last fourteen months has helped to drive yet another record-breaking year in amenity sales, making it the fourth year in succession.
This continued surge in amenity sales already has some of the biggest players worldwide scrambling for stock for the 2022 season. The explosion of sales in the last twelve months has led to significant worldwide shortages of turf and the typical inexpensive varieties. Increased demand from both Europe and North America has made perennial ryegrass and red fescue very difficult to obtain for wholesalers worldwide. This in turn is already driving up prices for next year. The supply deficit combined with the continued rise in transport and freight costs has some experts forecasting a price increase of 30-50% for next year’s stock.
The pasture mix and hay market has also been robust this season. Following on from three exceptional years, 2021 had big boots to fill to continue this year-on-year growth. Whilst there has been a marginal dip this season when compared with the last three years, it has still competed well when considering a longer-term perspective. When looking over the last five years, 2021 has been roughly average, making the market much more predictable. Stocks have survived the amenity decimation due to a prolonged cool, wet spring and demand can continue to be expected after the first cut and into the autumn.
Now with our attention turning to catch crops, the autumn, and even 2022, there are both reasons to be optimistic and challenges to be considered. The catch crop market continues to expand in the UK and the rest of Europe, with the changes in regulation aimed at increasing yields and protecting wildlife. Here in the UK the new Environmental Land Management scheme will undoubtedly put an increased emphasis on catch crops and keep the market competitive.
However, there will still be challenges that will continue to sway the market in the next twelve months. The widespread seed supply deficit will persist and drive-up prices, whilst at the same time the increased costs of distribution will also have an impact. The global increase in demand is of course great news for the industry. However, as we emerge into the “new normal”, the environmental impact and carbon footprint for the sector will continue to be in the spotlight. Consumer expectation and national legislation will positively drive ecological change in an industry which can notoriously be difficult to modernise. So, at this moment of reflection, we must continue to adapt to remain both commercially successful and environmentally conscious.