UK fruit and vegetable growers ‘rapidly running out of water’, NFU expert warns

PUBLISHED: 16:25 26 July 2018 | UPDATED: 16:34 26 July 2018

Paul Hammett, water expert at the National Farmers' Union Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Paul Hammett, water expert at the National Farmers' Union Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN


Newmarket-based National Farmers’ Union’s (NFU) national water resources specialist Paul Hammett, who was at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) National Drought Group meeting on July 23, said they discussed the rapidly changing situation in the agricultural sector. In July, the UK received just 16% of its long term average rainfull for the month, and in June, 49%.

Animal feed and livestock concerns were raised, along with concerns for growers, including crop fires. The NFU is calling for flexibility on water licensing, he said. “Many growers have just a few weeks supply of water left for an irrigation season that should run until the end of August at least and so there is a significant risk that crops could be lost at the final stage of production,” he warned.

“For cereals and rain-fed crops, the NFU stressed ongoing concerns about the risk of standing crops fires. While harvest has started some areas, it is too early for meaningful estimates but lower yields and quality are expected.”

The NFU also raised issues with complying with certain environmental schemes because of the unusual weather conditions.

“The NFU is talking to public water companies about reduced mains water pressures and interruptions which have potentially significant implications for animal welfare. We have registered our concern about the potentially significant but unquantified issue for private water supply interruptions that could affect rural dwellers and businesses, not just farmers,” said Mr Hammett.

The NFU said it expected more farmers to seek support from banks to help them manage cashflows in the coming weeks and months.

“It is too early to speculate on food supply and prices and NFU economists normally state that food prices are globally driven. However the Met Office reports that the drought is Europe-wide,” he said.

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