The overall harvested area of UK wheat could be down by a third this year, the National Union of Farmers has warned.
A ‘snapshot’ poll of NFU members found that a year of “unprecedented extreme weather” had battered the UK crop.
“Our poll is a snapshot but it is extremely worrying that planted area remaining viable for 2013 harvest on those farms looks set to be 29% smaller than last year. If this plays out nationally, we will be below average production for the second year in a row,” said NFU combinable crops chairman Andrew Watts.
Mr Watts said that his farm in north Hertfordshire had been forced to resow 7% of its wheat area. “That is a very rare occurrence. I can think of only one incident in the last 30 years where we had to do that,” he said. “A combination of wet, cold soils meant it just did not establish properly.”
“Our poll is a snapshot but it is extremely worrying that planted area remaining viable for 2013 harvest on those farms looks set to be 29% smaller than last year”
Andrew Watts, NFU
However, Mr Watts said the quality of the UK crop should not be affected. “Given a reasonable run with the weather from now until we harvest it, we can be fairly positive on that front.”
A separate survey by the NFU of 688 farmers has found that 45% were less confident about the prospects facing their farm business in the next 12 months compared to last year.
Mr Watts called on the government to do more to protect UK farmers. “We urge the UK Government to support English farmers with its implementation of the CAP reform, which must not put us at a disadvantage compared to other EU farmers.”
Lloyds TSB Agriculture, which provides banking facilities to farmers, said the long-term prospects for farming remained strong despite the NFU’s findings. “We realise there are short-term issues facing the sector and that farmers are working in an environment where extreme weather and price volatility will continue to feature,” said Lloyds TSB Agriculture’s policy director Alick Jones.
“But we remain confident that the medium and long-term outlook is positive and will take a longer-term view to help farmers through this period.”
In its most recent report, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation has predicted the global wheat crop will hit 695 million tonnes in 2013, a 5.4% rise on the previous year’s harvest, driven in part by increased yields in the EU and the CIS.