Crops rotting in farmer’s fields

Months of constant rain is ruining crops which local farmers warn could lead to shortages and inflated food prices.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 21st July 2012, 8:00 am

This year saw the wettest April to June on record and local farmers are watching some of their crops rotting in the ground, unable to do anything about it.

“The weather is giving us a lot of problems this year,” said Mark Pettitt, from Ferry Farm in East Ferry near Gainsborough.

“It is not down to total rainfall, but it is the number of consecutive days that it keeps raining. We have had no periods of a few dry days in a row for the crops to dry out.”

“In the last few days we have started to get problems with the winter wheat. The ears are starting to grow mould with about 40 per cent of the ear turning white.”

“A lot of the oil seed rape crop has started to fall over, and because it is close to the ground it is constantly wet and is rotting.”

Aside from harming his own livelihood, Mark warned that the problems were likely to lead to not only poor quality crops, but shortages and inflated food prices.

“Where we were looking at a good yield before, we now are looking at being down 30 per cent,” he said.

“The margins are always tight, and we have spent more on protecting the crop this year, which makes them tighter.”

“This will have a knock-on effect on the tonnage that can be harvested. If this weather continues we are facing a global problem,” he added.

And this is a problem which is being echoed at farms right across the country.

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) chief horticulture adviser Hayley Campbell-Gibbons said the prolonged wet weather is presenting a ‘huge challenge’ for many growers.

“That said, there are significant differences in the impacts on individual businesses and regions,” she said.

“Where growers have been affected there is likely to be a disruption to planting, because of the difficulty getting tractors into waterlogged fields. Some growers are trying to harvest crops by hand to try and ensure continuity of supply, at great additional cost to their business.”

“We could be looking at a later harvest for some crops, and some lower yields, but it really is still too early to say what the impact will be on a national scale. An improvement in weather over the next couple of weeks could really stimulate production and improve the situation.

“We would urge the retailers to apply a sensible level of flexibility on their product specifications to ensure that as much of the British crop that is available makes its way onto the supermarket shelves for consumers to enjoy”.

The Environment Agency is also warning that Britain needs to plan now for more erratic, unpredictable and extreme weather patterns in the future.

Chairman of the Environment Agency Lord Chris Smith said the weather extremes we’ve seen this year, with flooding almost immediately following a long term drought - could become the norm.

“Climate change science tells us that these are the sort of weather patterns we are going to have to get used to, so taking action today to prepare and adapt our homes, businesses, and infrastructure is vital.”