Fears over cereal harvest hit growers’ confidence

Farmer confidence in the short-term future of the arable sector is at an all-time low as growers across England and Wales revealed the amount of land they expect to harvest was likely to be almost a third lower than last year.

A survey of NFU England and Wales members indicated their overall harvested area was on course to be 29 per cent lower than in 2012, indicating the UK would once again be net importers of wheat.

Meanwhile a separate union survey found almost half of arable farmers interviewed (45 per cent) were less confident about the prospects facing their farm businesses in the next 12 months.

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Announcing the survey results at the Cereals Event in Lincolnshire, yesterday, union combinable crops chairman Andrew Watts said extreme weather and planned restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides had hit farmer confidence as well as plantings. And if the survey played out nationally and production was below average for a second year, the impacts would be felt across the UK farming sector.

“We can speculate about the actual yield but being in a net import situation will be key for sectors relying on feed,” he said. “We are at the same position as last year so the cost pressure for livestock producers will be high.”

Despite the anticipated decline in harvest, Watts said he was positive about the quality potential of crops, which would allow growers to make up some of the shortfall in profit.

“It was a real disappointment last year as, despite the headline price being high, farmers had to take a significant discount because of quality issues,” he said. “But there’s nothing to suggest we can’t produce the right quality this year.”

Watts said the big question was around the wheat crop, which was 10-14 days behind where it should be.

“We will have to wait and see if the crops have enough time to fill out and achieve their potential,” he added.

Watts also advised farmers concerned over their cash flows to take steps to ensure they had the necessary cash to help them make the investments they needed to keep their businesses running efficiently.