Miserable weather hits harvests hard

Bad weather and waterlogged fields have left a poor harvest
Bad weather and waterlogged fields have left a poor harvest

NOT that they would need telling after one of the wettest summers in living memory, but figures released by the Government earlier this week confirmed just how miserable 2012 has been for farmers, with the cereal harvest hit harder than it has been for nearly 20 years and Berwickshire NFU chair Neil White saying it was the worst he could remember in the area for three decades.

The First Estimate of the Cereal and Oilseed Rape Harvest 2012 show that cereal production is expected to decrease by 354,000 tonnes (12 per cent) to 2.5 million tonnes, the lowest result since 1994, and average yields are expected to decrease by 14 per cent to 5.5 tonnes per hectare.

The estimate makes for grim reading all round. Total barley production is expected to decrease by 112,000 tonnes to 1.7 million tonnes and despite a 10 per cent increase in the area of Spring barley plantings, the expected 13 per cent reduction in yield (to 4.9 tonnes per hectare) would result in a decrease in production of five per cent (to 1.408 million tonnes).

Both the area and expected yield of winter barley decreased (by six per cent and eight per cent respectively) resulting in an expected 14 per cent reduction in production, at 279,000 tonnes.

Oilseed rape production is expected to decrease by 40,00 tonnes to 110,00 tones; wheat production is expected to decrease by 250,000 tonnes or 27 per cent to 683,000 tonnes with the one positive being that the production of oats is expected to increase by 9,000 tonnes to 131,000 tonnes.

The publication of the Government statistics has confirmed the inevitable for those involved in the Borders agricultural industry and Neil White said it was a year farmers in the region “would have to try and forget about.”

He told ‘The Berwickshire: “During the wet spell of weather in the summer I tried to keep optimistic as all it would have taken was for a decent week or two of weather for the harvest to be salvaged but it just didn’t come and nothing has done well.

“The livestock guys will have been relying on income from crops looking ahead to the bills they’ll have to pay out during the winter but it’s been very, very disappointing.

Berwickshire hasn’t been the worst hit area in Scotland but there’s no denying that everyone has suffered and all times of farmers are taking a big financial hit. Nothing can do well in this weather.”

Neil said as bad as things were it was important that farmers in Berwickshire didn’t get too downhearted and should look to others in the industry for support.

“The weather has been a big topic of conversation at NFU meetings this year but there’s little we can do about it. This year is one we have to try and forget about.

“We are all always looking to invest in our farms but projects planned for this year have had to be put on hold. It’s all about consolidation at the moment. The only light I can see is that if anyone is getting any decent crops they’re worth more money now.

“It would be a worrying prospect if we received wet weather for the rest of the year. For a start there are hundreds of acres of potatoes still needing lifted and that’s a labour intensive process.

“There’s no escaping the fact that this is a difficult period for us all to get through but we’re all in it together. Farming is a relatively solitary job just now and it’s important for guys to realise there’s others in the same boat.”