NFU has published a harvest survey of 283 farmers showing that wheat yields and winter barley yields were down 18 per cent from 2019, spring barley yields down six per cent and oilseed rape yields down 15 per cent.
Defra’s 2020 provisional harvest wheat production figures peg wheat production at 10.133 million tonnes. This is 37.5 per cent lower than harvest 2019 and would be the smallest wheat crop since 1981.
NFU is calling for government policies that will help farmers cope with more volatile weather, build more resilient businesses and continue to deliver a secure supply of food.
NFU combinable crops board chairman, Matt Culley says: “Over the past 12 months we’ve experienced pretty much every weather extreme possible, from severe flooding to prolonged heatwaves. These weather patterns are only going to become more frequent so it’s absolutely vital we address this volatility and find solutions to help deal with it.”
As well as yield losses, quality is also a concern, says Mr Culley.
“It is important growers have an accurate idea of what they have in store.
“Work with merchants to assess crops as soon as you can. For farmers relying on premiums such as for malting barley, we are looking at lower yields and poorer quality.
“The current high prices will not make up for lower [cereal] yield as a lot was sold ahead at prices lower than the current price, with past advice being to lock in 30 per cent ahead of harvest. However, this is closer to 70 per cent of the harvested crop leaving very little to come to market at current prices.
“The impact on cashflow will affect growers during the new season. The knee-jerk reaction has been earlier planting to get crops in the ground as growers cannot afford a repeat of last year but these will be higher input, more expensive crops. We really do need BPS to be paid on time.”