Just when farmers were hoping for higher crop yields to benefit from changing currency foreign exchange rates following Brexit, they face another cruel blow.
Anyone travelling through the countryside in July and early August will have seen arable fields of barley with crops bent over or “lodged” by the wind and rain.
Results from winter barley and oil seed rape harvests show that the lack of sunshine through spring and early summer has resulted in yields below the five-year average and which is definitely not helpful to the farming community particularly after the dramatic falls in grain prices last year and the loss of Russia as a market for exports following the Ukraine crisis.
The reduction in Sterling on international markets has brought some rise in arable output prices for UK farmers by offsetting the continuing general decline in world prices but the weather has restricted this benefit by holding yields back on early cut crops.
Weather patterns followed by resultant lodging has also severely affected the quality of grains produced; with barleys of very low specific weight and small oilseed rape seed of low oil content. With many farmers having committed tonneages for sale in excess of the volume grown or with produce not meeting required specification there could be penalties for them to face.
This is borne out as the AHDB (Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board) reports that after heavy rain at the start of July, the harvest period opened in a period of hot, dry weather that allowed good progress. However it was too late for early grain quality to recover.
In the Dairy sector Improvements in the spot market have seen milk prices paid by processors to co-operatives rise to about 30 pence per litre (ppl) but with average prices paid to producers by the middle of this year showing a figure of only 21.68 ppl compared with 33.11 ppl in the middle of 2014 the sector remains under huge pressure. In fact UK milk production is reported to now be 11 per cent down on last year.
Milk producers are again threatening protests at supermarkets and processing plants so farming is facing a difficult time as it heads towards the autumn at a time we hoped things might be easing for producers.
Christopher D'Olley is a Rural Partner in the Winchester office. He is a Chartered Surveyor and Fellow of the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers, with over 30 years experience.