Germany’s farmers are growing less and less oats – and at the same time demand from local mills is increasing. In Germany, not nearly the amount of oats suitable for food production was harvested that the mills needed “to meet the sharp increase in demand,” said a spokeswoman for the Association of the Grain, Mill and Starch Industry (VGMS).

According to the association, German oat mills processed around 675,000 tons of oats in 2023. In 2008 it was 290,000 tons. Because: Oats are in demand among consumers – as an ingredient for muesli, for example, as a porridge, as an oat drink, and a vegan alternative to cow’s milk. A large proportion of the oats processed in this country come from other European countries, especially from Poland, the Czech Republic and Scandinavia.

Oat cultivation is declining

In Germany, the area under cultivation has steadily declined in recent years, especially since oats are already a niche product in agriculture: according to the Federal Statistical Office, 177,300 hectares of oats were sown in 2021, a year later it was 160,100 and the previous year only 139,500. For comparison: wheat grew on almost three million hectares.

According to the association, the oat mills express great interest in oats from Germany. The marketing opportunities are better than ever. “Discussions take place regularly between breeding, oat milling and agriculture,” said the spokeswoman. The peeling mills also use agricultural arguments to win the favor of farmers: oats are particularly useful in crop rotation. It contributes to the protection and regeneration of the soil, counteracts weed growth and plant diseases and requires only a small amount of fertilizer and pesticides.

The German Farmers’ Association (DBV) referred to the comparatively low prices paid to farmers for oats. “The price for oats in Germany is usually significantly lower than for other types of grain, which is why they are preferred over oats in cultivation,” said Katharina Geiger, arable farming specialist.

Of course, farmers are attracted by the good demand for oats for processing, “but the price also has to be right.” Unfortunately, the price is not increasing enough for oats to compete well with other types of grain.

Logistical problems with the oats

Another problem: The storage infrastructure for grain in Germany is no longer designed for the small harvest quantities compared to other types of grain. There are usually only large warehouses left that handle large quantities of common types of grain and have no technology for the smaller quantities of oats, said Johann Meierhöfer, DBV head of the plant production department. There are currently discussions about this between the actors involved.

The federal state with the largest oat-growing area is Bavaria. Here too, the cultivated area fell by almost 13 percent to 25,200 hectares from 2022 to 2023. Oats are actually a “super” crop, said Anton Huber, expert for grain and oilseeds at the Bavarian Farmers’ Association (BBV): “In recent years there has unfortunately been a lack of added value, and the spring drought of recent years has also damaged cultivation. “

In order for a trend reversal to occur, the consumer is also asked. “It’s important that you pay attention to regionality when purchasing oat drinks, otherwise the sustainability that you ascribe to the drinks is immediately over.” Huber was convinced that with more stable prices and more regional processing, more farmers would focus on growing oats.