The return "with a vengeance" of wet weather may prompt many
UK farmers to abandon their last standing wheat, besides rendering spring
barley and oats harvests the slowest in recent memory, and piling on "misery" for
While the harvest of the UK wheat crop is close to
completion - after a dry spell at the start of the month allowed farmers to catch
up on a rain-delayed start - rains over the weekend left growers facing "saturated
soils, ponding in fields and some flooding", Adas said.
"There are still crops elsewhere on the higher land and in
wet patches of fields that may prove impossible to harvest following the latest
rain," the consultancy said.
In Scotland, where "there have been serious harvest
difficulties caused by the wet conditions", further rain forecast for the
coming week "will hamper the completion of the winter wheat harvest".
The poor conditions look set to ensure a historically poor
UK harvest ends on a dismal note.
Adas restated a forecast of yields coming in "towards the
lower end" of a range of 6.8-7.2 tonnes per hectare, implying the worst result in 20 years, with the specific weight, a key quality measure, dropping 70.7
kilogrammes per hectolitre, the lowest on records going back to 1977.
And the harvest slowdown was reflected in other cereals too,
with the spring barley harvest slowing to a crawl, and becoming the latest in
"There are still crops dotted around the rest of England and
Wales that have not been harvested due to poor ground conditions," Adas said.
"The latest rain and the harvest logistics mean that many of
these patches may not be harvested."
For oats, harvesting stalled at 85% complete, compared with
nearly all typically by now.
'Perfect storm of
The wet conditions have also slowed the potato harvest,
which was 27% complete as of Monday, roughly half the usual rate, according to
the British Potato Council.
The low figure reflects, besides recent rains, the knock-on
effects of damp spring weather, which delayed sowings, and the wettest summer
in a century, which slowed crop development and raised disease pressures.
Confirmed outbreaks of potato blight have more than doubled
this year, the council said, warning that producers faced a "perfect storm of
misery" given also that many farmers were on fixed contracts, meaning they
would be unable to pass on higher costs.
"The combination of low yielding potato crops, increased
crop spraying costs and increased wastage from problems such as greening, soft
rots and growth cracks has massively increased the average cost of producing a
tonne of potatoes," council chairman Allan Stevenson said.
According to analysis group Andersons, farmers' costs have
soared from £140 a tonne to £190 a tonne.
Potatoes achieved an average price of £184.77 a tonne last
week, with relatively low contract prices offsetting £252.77 a tonne for free-market