South-West arable farmers stand to lose about £50m due to the wet summer, on top of losses of £30-£40m in the tourism sector.
This summer was the fifth wettest on record, and August was the cloudiest since records began in 1929, according to the Met Office. “Some parts of the UK have had more than double the average rainfall for the month,” said spokesman John Hammond.
Farmers had struggled to combine wet crops in poor ground conditions, losing milling wheat premiums, straw values, and in some cases whole crops. They had also incurred high drying costs – three to four times the norm, said Nick Green, operations director of Somerset-based mixed farm and cheese business Alvis Bros. Across 1000 acres of arable land he expected to lose about £75,000 due to the wet weather.
With around 709,000 acres of cereals in the south-west, that equated to a loss of about £50m across the region.
John Bond said the harvest at WH Bond & Sons Trerule Farm, Saltash, Cornwall, had been a disaster. With 500 acres of arable land he reckoned the farm would lose between £50,000 and £100,000. “It is highly disappointing to work all year and have the weather ruin it.”
WH Bond & Sons also ran landscaping and construction enterprises, which had been equally affected by the wet summer, he said. “It’s cost our business at least £200,000.”
The appalling weather had also knocked tourism spending by around £30-£40m, said Malcolm Bell, chief executive of South-West Tourism. Day visitor numbers were sharply down, and operators were worried about the long-term impact of two wet summers on the trot. “We should not underestimate that there are going to be big challenges going into next summer,” he said.
Rural tourism contributed £1.6bn to the region, making up 19% of the total tourism economy and 20% of jobs, at 39,000 full-time equivalents. And with so many farms in the region diversified to offer holiday accommodation, farm shops and tourist attractions, farmers had been doubly hit by the weather, said NFU spokesman Ian Johnson.
“An awful lot of farms derive as much income – if not more – from tourism. They will be suffering both in terms of lost tourism and lost crops.”