07 August 2023

Weather in coming weeks ‘absolutely crucial’ to harvest, union leader warns

07 August 2023

The weather over the next few weeks will be “absolutely crucial” for this year’s harvest, a union leader has warned.

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) deputy president Tom Bradshaw has said the “atrocious” harvest weather could spoil barley and wheat crops this summer.

The NFU representative said farmers are already facing a marginal year and could have to pay extra to dry out crops and reduce their prices if crops are of worse quality.

Mr Bradshaw said he was unable to use the combine harvester at his farm in Essex for nearly a week because of the wet weather.

He told the PA news agency: “We had 44 millimetres of rain on Saturday and we had 21 on Friday. So, over the course of 36 hours we had about 65mm of rain when we were supposed to be harvesting the crop. It really is pretty testing.

We're taking all the risk in growing these crops and there'll be many that are questioning whether they can continue funding the crop for next year

“You have got a machine that’s worth over £200,000, which is only used for five weeks a year and it’s sat there for six days not being used. It is really, really frustrating.”

Mr Bradshaw predicted it is “going to be a really challenging year financially for farming” and the bad weather could add to the huge number of challenges facing the industry.

He told the PA news agency: “When farmers were buying fertiliser last year, it was double the price that it had been the previous year.

“We’ve grown the crops using very expensive inputs and the market had already drifted a long way from where it had been a year ago.”

Mr Bradshaw added that if the quality of barley is not high enough it is sold to feed animals and farmers have to sell it at a substantial discount.

The NFU deputy president explained cutting crops around the start of August is historically early, but because of the hot, dry weather in June crops were ready two weeks ago and very little of it has been harvested so far because of the “rubbish weather”.

He said: “It is still very early days at the moment and the weather over the next two or three weeks will be absolutely crucial…

“We’re taking all the risk in growing these crops and there’ll be many that are questioning whether they can continue funding the crop for next year.”

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