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Rain causes havoc for Hampshire farmers
11:08am Sunday 2nd September 2012 in News
With record-breaking levels of rain, Hampshire’s farmers are now battling to bring in a much-reduced harvest.
And continual rain and lack of sunshine earlier in the summer mean some crops are several weeks late and yields are well down.
Now farmers fear if the rain does not relent, this could damage next year’s harvest.
Arable farmers have been hit as the moisture has brought about disease in corn and lack of sunshine means it has not ripened properly and weighs less.
Julian Gibbons, chairman of the Hampshire National Farmers Union, said that on average across the county crop yields were down 15 per cent from normal and 25 per cent down on last year's bumper crop.
Particularly badly hit are yields for potatoes and apples, which are as much as 40 per cent down.
He said they were seeing disease levels in cereals that had not been seen for years and this year's weather was “probably worse than most people have seen in their careers because we have had so much rain”.
He said farmers on average had seen around a 10 per cent drop in grain sales so on a typical 500 acre farm they could be seeing a £40,000 drop in grain sales Mr Gibbons added that because the money spent to produce less crops is the same, this could lead to a 20 to 25 per cent drop in profit and, in cases where a lot of grain had been sold in advance, it could be worse.
He said farmers on average had seen around a 10 per cent drop in grain sales, but then you had to factor in that the outgoings to produce less yield have been the same – leading to a 20 to 25 per cent drop in profit.
Farmer Jack Parsons, from Ower, said that on farms in the Romsey area yields for barley, corn and rapeseed, had dropped by up to 20 per cent.
As well as running his own farm at Ower Mr Parsons does contract work on other farms in a 25-mile radius.
He said in some cases the maize and corn had simply not grown - with stalks reaching only a foot when they should be five feet tall.
Wet ground has also curtailed combine harvesting, he said, putting pressure on farmers to work long into the night on dry days.
A worldwide shortage of grain, partly due to the wet weather here and a drought in the USA, has pushed prices through the roof.
This should benefit farmers but many are unable to take advantage of the situation due to low yields.
Some farmers have sold their crops in advance at a set price, but the harvest has not arrived in time or the crop is of poor quality resulting in financial penalties, said Mr Parsons.
He said farmers that had sold corn in February into the market in advance could actually be making a loss.
Arable farmers are not the only ones suffering. Pig and poultry farmers have seen the prices for feed rocket because of the worldwide prices for grain.
Mr Parsons told how sheep farmers have grass for their flock to eat, but it is so wet they cannot digest it properly and treatment put on the animals to prevent fly eggs left on their fur is being washed away and having to be applied twice.
“It is unbelievable, it has affected everybody right across the playing field,” said Mr Parsons.
“It's been a horrible year and most people I know are saying exactly the same, ‘for goodness sake, let’s get this year over with and start again’.”
He added: “We’re not going to want it to carry on like it is at the moment because there will be some people out there who are seriously struggling.
“If it does then they need to see some serious increases in their returns to survive or else they won't survive.”
Alan Cook, of Windwhistle Farm, in Sherfield English, said his crop yield was down 25 per cent and the harvest had come more than a fortnight late.
While maize had died as it was unable to break through the rain-hardened ground, he said, cereal crops although produced in the same amount, the actual crops weighed half of what they should.
He said some crops were not making the industry standard so were in storage, and although Mr Cook said he would find a market for them they would have to sell at a lower price.
Mr Cook fears this summer's problems may have a knock-on effect.
As combine harvesting has been slowed by the weather, he may fall behind with the planting of next year’s crops, affecting next summer’s yield, as he cannot start planting rapeseed and oilseed until the field is clear.
He said this was one of the worst years he had seen, but hoped the weather would pick up in time to help next year’s crop.
Mr Gibbons said thankfully the last two harvests had been good and prices were high which would limit the financial damage to arable farmers at least, though the situation had affected morale.
“No one likes producing poor quality grain because you have spent the year growing it, you have all that potential and it’s gone at the last hurdle.”