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County farmers warn that planting problems could raise prices
Worcestershire farmers are weathering one of the toughest planting seasons in living memory which could see food prices rise next year.
The higher-than-average rainfall across the county since May has pushed farmers’ planting season into winter, when seeds for crops such as wheat, corn and oilseed rape would usually already have established themselves.
But many fields remain unplanted because the ground is waterlogged Rob Adams, who has 180 acres for arable planting around White Ladies Aston, near Worcester, said many farmers “were tearing their hair out” over the weather.
“There’s virtually nothing planted,” he said.
“Usually there would be 95 per cent planted, and at the moment it’s the other way around.”
He said oilseed rape had been planted late and “a lot has failed” in the wet ground.
Mr Adams – a Worcestershire county councillor – said he had 13 tonnes of grain himself ready to be planted, but it would just rot.
“We need three or four weeks of dry weather and then that would be perfect,” he said.
If the weather does not improve, Mr Adams said “it will have a knock-on effect on next year’s harvest”.
Hay-making for livestock feed was affected earlier in the year, when the June cut was rained off – much of it until July, while some never got cut at all.
The same was true of this year’s cereal harvest.
Crops can be planted in winter but the yield – the amount harvested – is bigger if planting happens in October.
The sum total is higher production costs for farmers, which hit consumers’ pockets further up the chain.
However, the National Farmers Union said the situation “could have been worse” but Worcestershire farmers had invested in grain drying and handling facilities to stave off the very worst – a ruined harvest.
NFU Worcestershire spokesman Oliver Cartwright said: “Ground conditions now are still difficult, with farmers having some problems preparing the ground and planting seed for next year.
“We do need to see some drier weather as most will be looking to finish planting by the end of November, otherwise we will probably see more spring seed varieties, including oats and barley, go in.
“Sowing wheat later is likely to lead to reduced yields and higher input costs “The weather is difficult to predict.
“But despite that, farmers will always rise to the challenges they face, delivering great tasting food for our tables.”