September 15, 2011


UK farmers need subsidies even with better harvest



UK farmers emphasised the importance of subsidy support although harvest had come in far better than expected during the worst spring drought.


The National Farmers Union (NFU) said that, while some farms blessed by timely rains in June and July had seen "exceptional" yields, many crops in the east had been "particularly badly affected" by spring dryness.


This had left some growers in an area responsible for two-thirds of national output and the home of the so-called "barley barons" - reliant on payments from the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).


"For some farmers whose yields were hit most dramatically by the extremes in weather this year, CAP support has been really important," said the NFU's chairman of combinable crops.


"It serves to demonstrate the value of the single farm payment in shielding farmers from the extremes of climate and market volatility."


The comments come amid a European debate over the future of the single farm payment which, rather than being linked to production, rewards growers for measures such as environmental protection.


And that even growers enjoying better crops had seen margins trimmed by the need to dry grain harvested during a summer dogged by "prolonged rainfall" he said.


"Farmers have invested millions in drying to preserve grain quality," he said.


"Many report crops weighing heavier and high bushel weights are partly compensating for lower volume harvested."


The observations tally with official findings that, with much of the milling crop harvested before summer rains set in, and with a significant drying campaign, UK wheat quality was high this year.


The NFU pegged the English crop, which accounts for more than 90% of the UK total, at 13.6 million tonnes, down 1.5% on the five year average.


The estimate reflected a drop in yield to a four year low of 7.5 tonnes per hectare, in part offset by a 3% rise in sowings.


In June, the union warned that the crop could come in well below 12 million tonnes, and the yield at 6.5 tonnes per hectare, thanks to "severe" drought.


"This year's wheat harvest has not been as bad as first feared," the NFU said on Wednesday (Sep 15).

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