UK: Arable farmers’ confidence drops as wheat harvests suffer

Poll reveals farmers' fears over winter wheat crop

Poll reveals farmers' fears over winter wheat crop - Credit:

This year’s wheat harvest is likely to be smaller than last year, as short-term confidence among arable farmers plummets to a new low, a snap poll reveals.

The study by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) reveals the overall harvested area on the farms in the poll is on course to be almost 30% lower than in 2012. They follow figures from HGCA, the cereals and oilseeds division of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), showing winter wheat planting area was 25% down.

Farmers have faced a year of unprecedented extreme weather which has battered crops, which the NFU believes underlines the importance of farmers’ access to crop protection technology, and the need for the UK Government not to implement the European Union Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to the disadvantage of English farmers.

In a separate NFU survey, nearly half of arable farmers interviewed (45%) were less confident about the prospects facing their farm business in the next 12 months compared to last year.

NFU combinable crops chairman Andrew Watts said: “A myriad of factors have hit arable farms this year, from the extreme weather through to news that there will be restrictions on neonicotinoids to come in the future.

“Our poll is a snapshot but it is extremely worrying that planted area remaining viable for 2013 harvest on those farms looks set to be 29% smaller than last year. If this plays out nationally, we will be below average production for the second year in a row.

“The saving grace in past years has been crop protection technology, which can help maintain yield potential and all important grain quality by guarding against pests and ensure crops are more drought and flood resistant. However, with the march by lobbying organisations to force restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids and potential restrictions on triazoles, it is hardly surprising to see that short-term confidence is so low.

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“If the experts are to be believed and extreme weather is to become more frequent over the coming years, we must look at ways of supporting the industry. Crop protection technology must be embraced to help safeguard our harvests in years to come. After lower volume and quality from the 2012 crop put pressure on cashflow and profitability, the signals we are getting indicate these difficulties will continue after 2013. We urge the UK Government to support English farmers with its implementation of the CAP reform, which must not put us at a disadvantage compared to other EU farmers.”

The wheat crop poll took place in May 2013 and questioned 76 members of NFU crops boards across England and Wales, covering some 16,000ha of land.

The farmer confidence survey asked farmers to rate their overall confidence in the prospects facing your farm business for the next 12 months compared to the last 12 months.

It found 12% were much less confident, 33% a little less confident, 39% had the same level of confidence, 14% were a little more confident and 2% were much more confident.