Worried farmers seek April showers

FARMERS in Suffolk and Essex are warning that crop yield could drop by up to 50% this summer if rain does not fall in the next few days.The region has not seen a drop of rain for more than a month, with only a quarter of an inch on March 6.

FARMERS in Suffolk and Essex are warning that crop yield could drop by up to 50% this summer if rain does not fall in the next few days.

The region has not seen a drop of rain for more than a month, with only a quarter of an inch on March 6.

There has been no substantial downpour - of more than an inch - since December 22 last year.

Peter Hawes, chairman of Essex NFU, who farms 4,500 acres across East Anglia, warned of “very long term serious loss and consequences” if the weather does not break soon.


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He said the “drought” could cause potential losses of up to 50% in some crops, with uneven ripening making spray control very difficult. With grass not growing at its usual rate either, he added, livestock farmers could also get into difficulties.

“You can put your hand down the cracks in the earth,” he said.

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“Never before have you been able to do that in April.”

Guy Smith, whose farm, in St Osyth, Essex, is noted in the Guinness Book of World Records as the driest spot in the British Isles, said: “If we don't get substantial rain very soon, we are looking at getting only half the harvest we would have had. I've got 25 acres of peas sitting in the dust that haven't come up. We would usually expect six times the amount of rain we've had.

“We desperately need some April showers.”

Stephen Rash, chairman of Suffolk NFU, said the situation was getting desperate for farmers across the region with spring sown cereals and vegetables, such as sugar beet, under serious threat.

He added: “If the rain forecast for this weekend turns up it will be just in time to stop too much serious damage being done. This is an extremely unusual occurrence. We're moving into the unknown now. I have been farming since 1972 and I can't remember weather conditions like this.

“This is a key time when the spring plants are beginning to grow need a continuous supply of rain.”

Only 0.6 inches fell in East Anglia last month, compared with an average of 1.62in. February saw only 0.67, compared with an expected 1.55in for the month.

Ken Blowers, EADT weather expert, however, predicted some rain for Easter Sunday or Monday.

He added: “Farmers are very, very short of rain and we are hoping for some this weekend but I'm afraid nothing is sure and we can't tell how much we will get. They really need it to rain for a solid 12 hours.”

Arable farmer John Adams, who owns 1,200 acres in Felixstowe, said wheat, cereal and sugar beet crops had all germinated so far, but needed more rain as soon as possible.

He added: “At the moment it's not having too much of a detrimental effect on wheat and cereal. There were worries about the sugar beet as we haven't had a drop since we drilled it but they've all seemed to come up OK. We are all hoping it will rain before too long.”

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