Difficult harvest for West Norfolk farmers

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Harvest is proving to be a difficult time for West Norfolk farmers who are having to deal with low prices and heavy rains.

An estimated 20 per cent of the area’s harvest is still standing in the fields as farmers have not been able to get the combines out due to the horrendous weather.

And if that was not bad enough, farmers will be struggling to break even due to low prices being offered.

Wheat takes £120 per tonne to produce but is being bought for £110 per tonne due to a current global surplus of the crop.

Downham and District NFU chairman Ed Lankfer is one of the lucky ones and has brought the majority of his crop ahead of the rain with just four hectares remaining.

His wheat yields ranged between eight and 12.5 per tonne.

He said: “You don’t break even until it is £120 per tonne so you can work for 12 months for nothing.

“The CAP reforms have not helped as they have put in more break crops such as beans and peas in the rotation. People have come out of sugar as the price is low.

“We work in a global market place and we have to take the peaks with the troughs.

“Some of my neighbours still have a lot to do. We were quite fortunate to push on and get the stuff in.”

The Gayton estate was able to bring its wheat crops a few weeks ago before the heavy rain has struck.

Manager Alistair Beales said: “We’ve had extraordinary weather with 18ml in one day.

“In the last six to seven days I would say we’ve had 500ml of rain.

“Anyone still waiting to bring in the wheat and barley is going to have problems.

“The best thing consumers can do is to buy British.”

Grain merchants say that before the rain hit this year’s harvest was set to be a good one.

Tom Rivett, trade director at H-Banham in Fakenham, said: “Prior to the rain, what we saw was of good quality and good yield.

“But now we are in unknown territory as we don’t know what damage could be done to any crop left in the field .

“The harvest have been very awkward for farmers as they’ve not had a good run and a signficant amount of field is to be harvested.”

Heygates Mill in Downham has also reported good quality and yields.

Wheat buyer James Hale said: “So far, so good but the rain has held it off for a little while.

“From the sample results we’ve had the harvest was looking good.

“The quality was better than last year.”