East Anglian farmers upbeat as wheat and barley yields soar

East Anglian farmers are celebrating high yields this season

East Anglian farmers are celebrating high yields this season - Credit: citizenside.com

Farmers across Suffolk and Essex are reporting high wheat and barley yields as farmers’ leaders build up a picture of this year’s harvest.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) says some of its members have reported the earliest finishes to harvest they have ever had as the good weather returned following two challenging years.

However, lower crop prices have put a slight dampener on farmers’ overall sense of optimism about how the growing season has gone.

The NFU is urging farmers to take part in its harvest survey, which is open to submissions up to September 28.

Stephen Rash, Hall Farm, Wortham, near Diss, said his harvest had been exceptional and while prices were low, the higher yield gave him some comfort.

“We had an excellent harvest and if I have another one like that in my lifetime I will be surprised. We seem to have something like this once every 30 years or so,” he said.

“The oilseed rape crop was average but the winter wheat and winter barley were about 25% up on our average yields.

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“We had to sell 300 tonnes of wheat and 60 tonnes of barley because we had nowhere to store it, and we’ve stored 150 tonnes in a shed that hasn’t been used for storage before.

“Prices are low, but I’d rather have a large amount that isn’t worth very much than a small amount that isn’t worth very much.”

John Collen, Gisleham, near Lowestoft, who hit the headlines with a combine harvester fire a few weeks ago, had been hit since by some mechanical breakdowns which had made his harvest particularly challenging. However, his yields were generally good, although he was disappointed about the low price of cereal crops.

St Osyth farmer and vice president of the NFU Guy Smith said it was “a good harvest to be looking at the yield meter in the combine, a bad harvest to be ringing the grain merchant to see how much the stuff was worth. What we gained on the yield swing we lost on the price roundabout.”

Robert Raven, of Henstead, Beccles, said: “We’ve had our earliest finish for harvest for 40 years and it’s been very good. We’re very happy with the yields achieved but the price is a different story. Our wheat and barley reached record yields and it’s a similar story on neighbouring farms. However, oilseed rape yields were average.

“We’ve drilled all our oilseed rape for next year and will drill some wheat soon, which again will be early.”

NFU Suffolk County Chairman George Gittus said: “Most people have finished their combine harvest and it appears that on the whole yields have been pleasing, with quality also good. This will help offset the dramatic drop in prices from £150 to £170 per tonne for wheat last year to £110 to £120 per tonne this year.

“So far, everywhere around the globe has had a good harvest and those still to come look very good too, which is, in the main, the cause of the drop.

“There is always the saying that ‘the best cure for low prices is low prices’, namely that many areas of the world, where their climate is more volatile than ours, will not risk planting next year’s crops with prices that low, as it is too risky.

“The root crops harvest is still in full swing, with their prices also taking a knock, not only from reasonable yields across Europe but also the supermarket price wars and the Russian embargo on European imports, imposed after the EU sanction on Russia over the Ukrainian situation.”

Farmers have until September 28 to complete the NFU Harvest Survey but interim results may be published before that. When all the data is available it will be revised and incorporated with Scotland’s crop survey for a UK harvest estimate. Members can access the survey on the NFU’s website at http://www.nfuonline.com/news/latest-news/our-2014-harvest-survey/