Harvest ‘not too bad’

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NOT as dire as predicted - that’s the verdict on the area’s cereal crops as harvesting gets well under-way.

The lack of rainfall during the early part of the year had local farmers fearing the worst for the wheat and barley crops as well as some fruits including apples and plums.

But Stephen Hutchinson of Wisbech branch of the National Farmers Union said things are not as bad as was originally feared - although it is still too early to tell for sure.

He said that until the crops are all safely harvested and in store it was difficult to know exactly what the situation is.

“It can be deceptive, especially in terms of the fruit crops as there may be some areas of an orchard with trees full of fruit while in other areas they might be bare,” said Mr Hutchinson.

He said the main worry now was hail, which can damage the fruit at the last before growers have time to get it off the trees.

“It is an anxious time. The last thing we need now is hail which can be very destructive,” said Mr Hutchinson.

Newton farmer John Hoyles said: “I can only speak personally but we are finding it better than expected. We grow wheat and that is quite a bit better than we were expecting. I would say it is likely to be about average. I think, frankly we are slightly surprised by the quality of the wheat.

“There’s a reasonable crop of potatoes, but I think there could be a really good sugar beet harvest, but it needs a bit of sunshine to put more sugar into it. In fact sugar beet could be this year’s bumper crop.”

Cattle farmer Charles Smart of Elm was deeply concerned about the grass crop for haymaking back in May.

At the time he was using fields usually earmarked for hay to maintain his beef cattle herd through the winter and was predicting a hay shortage come winter.

He agreed the arable crops were not as bad as feared but said the grass has continued to be very, very poor throughout the summer meaning he has had to feed his cattle, which is unusual.

And he said hay will definitely be in short supply this winter.