Myth: Due to EC law thatching for homes is under threat as the special wheat used, which produces very long straw, has been disallowed for human consumption, thereby making thatching uneconomical for farmers who had grown the crop in previous years.
Response: This is untrue: the Commission has not disallowed any variety of wheat for human consumption.
The Commission has no competence in the field of thatching, but it is correct to say that the Community in the past bought into intervention under the Common Agricultural Policy both fodder-type and breadmaking quality wheats. In the future, because of budgetary restraints, it has been decided that it will buy wheat only of breadmaking quality in order to avoid accumulating large intervention stocks of grains which cannot be used for food aid and are diffficult to sell.
If the long-straw wheat variety produces only low (ie. fodder) quality grains, then this change may discourage farmers from planting the long-straw variety because the market price might fall.
However, the market price for these grains is most unlikely to fall below other fodder grain prices which we do support, such as barley. At present wheat prices in the UK are somewhat higher than the intervention level. It should also be pointed out that thatching is also done with Norfolk reed and oat straw.