Suffolk/Essex: Farmers’ livelihoods in the lap of the gods after torrential downpours

FARMERS and local producers are hoping for the best after their crops have endured a season of adverse weather.

East Anglia’s producers have had to contend with a drought before a damp summer brought heavy rain and flooding.

Ormesby pea farmer Richard Hirst, who is chairman of the Anglian Pea Growers, said it is difficult to predict how this year’s yield will turn out.

“I’d normally finish drilling peas towards the end of May but it dragged on until the middle of June creating a longer season which makes it more expensive,” he said.

“It is difficult to say until we harvest the peas because we could end up having a heatwave next week which could change it all again.

“The weather always provides a challenge but nature has a wonderful way of putting itself right over time. It may not be a complete disaster yet.

“If yields are down significantly we need to have a better financial return to ensure we can carry on investing in good quality, wholesome food.”

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For wine producers it is too early to tell if the weather has had an effect.

Les Jarrett, owner of Framlingham’s Shawsgate Vineyard, said: “We are in the middle of the flowering period but in a couple of weeks we will know how the flowering has taken. As an industry our biggest loss has been in revenue with the loss of the start of the tourist season. We are four weeks down on our takings.”

Jam-makers Wilkin and Sons, based in Tiptree in Essex, have also been affected by the “challenging” season.

Farm director Chris Newenham said: “It’s an exceptionally challenging season, we are persevering in spite of the adverse weather and trying to make the best of things.

“A brighter note sees our Little Scarlet strawberry crop improving on 2011.”

A National Farmers Union spokesman said soft fruit has been the worst affected with some growers reporting the worst crop for a generation.

“Farmers are used to coping with the British weather but this year has been one of the most challenging in recent memory, with drought, followed by record-breaking temperatures in March, and then record rainfall and below-average temperatures,” he added.

“Like everyone else, farmers are desperately waiting for summer to start at the moment and there is concern about what the impact will be on crop quality and yields.

“Thankfully Suffolk and Essex seems to have largely escaped the serious flooding we’ve seen in other regions, though rainfall levels have varied widely within a few miles of each other.”