Oats (Avena sativa) are a robust, resilient cereal that is good for humans and good for the soil, but is certainly not new to our fields. Archaeologists have discovered that the Celts and Germanic peoples were already growing this cereal 4000 years ago. Before potatoes found their way across the ocean, porridge was a staple food in Central and Eastern Europe.
Over the last few decades, however, the market for oats had become limited to horse feed production and niche, mostly organic food production for humans. But for a while now oats have been gaining a large number of new fans throughout the world, who appreciate the health benefits of this alternative food in the form of oat drinks or porridge, for example.
For a long time, production in Germany remained limited, with a degree of self-sufficiency of just 70%. These days, however, farmers are beginning to catch up with the increased interest from consumers. After all, this summer crop offers arable farmers a great deal of benefits from an agronomic standpoint. What’s more, the marketing opportunities are wide-ranging and the prices are currently very attractive. Similar to other cereals and oil-producing crops these days, oats are rapidly jumping from one peak price to the next. At the beginning of May, the Chicago Board of Trade recorded an unprecedented price of 411 €/t.
In 2020, Germany had an area of 156,000 ha under cultivation – 20% more than the previous year – and harvest volumes of 714,000 t (average yield 48 dt/ha), making it Europe’s 5th largest producer of oats. The European frontrunner is Poland, followed by Finland, Spain and Sweden. Up to now, German grain mills have been importing oats from Scandinavia and North America to cover the domestic supply deficit. Meanwhile, the oat mills are reporting a rising demand for quality oats for the food processing industry.
So, at the moment, the signs are in favour of continuing to increase oat production. Nevertheless, market and arable experts admit that prices and yields are subject to stronger fluctuations, and the quality requirements set by mills are not easy to meet either. The best way to avoid marketing problems is by contacting mills in advance and agreeing long-term supply contracts.