As the floodwaters recede from large tracts of the south-west Midlands, farmers face the job of clearing up the mess, while insurers deal with a deluge of claims.
Jeremy Chamberlayne had to move 2000 breeding and fattening pigs to temporary accommodation when his pig unit at Ashleworth Court Farm, north of Gloucester, was engulfed by the River Severn two weeks ago, (News, 27 July).
Since then the water has retreated, leaving behind a soggy mix of pig slurry, debris and silt. Cleaning up and moving pigs back has been a labour-intensive operation, compounded by the fact that half the herd is still at another site and has to be fed and watered by hand.
“Those jobs are taking a lot of staff time – time that should be spent getting the harvest underway,” says Mr Chamberlayne.
But, with 200 acres of cereals, beans and oilseed rape affected by flooding, Mr Chamberlayne is not optimistic that there will be much to harvest. “The wheat has still got water around its feet. It’s standing OK, but the grains are creamy inside and I doubt they’ll dry into anything harvestable.”
Not all the farm was flooded, however, and the combine did start rolling on Tuesday (31 July), with milling wheat taken from one of the fields that was only partly flooded. “We got a crop off, but I’ve no idea what the quality will be like.”
Mr Chamberlayne is just one farmer in the region now counting the cost of the worst floods in 60 years.
NFU Mutual says it is dealing with more than 1500 claims already and expects many more to come in over the next few days.
“The extent of the flooding is unprecedented and, although it’s too early to put an accurate figure on the cost of claims, it’s clear that we are looking at a total bill running into tens of millions of pounds for NFU Mutual alone,” said chief claims manager, John Kenny. “That’s on top of over 2000 claims resulting from earlier floods in the north of England.”
Claims received so far include hundreds for seriously flooded farmhouses, which could cost £20,000-£50,000 each to put right.
Vehicles have also been hard hit, with hundreds of claims for flooded cars, tractors and harvesting vehicles reported. Modern vehicles with extensive electronic systems are often “written off” if water has covered the dashboard.
Other claims include damage to farm buildings, stored crops and farm equipment, together with livestock losses and loss of milk from farms where tankers were not able to make normal collections.
Mr Kenny made a plea to farmers to make safe working their first priority as they struggle with the most difficult harvesting conditions for many years. “Accidents and injuries tend to increase when workers and machines are under the strain of a difficult harvest.”
After seeing flood damage, Lord Rooker encouraged the NFU to claim weather aid.
WANT TO HELP?
The West Midland Business Council, the ARC-Addington Fund and the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution have launched an appeal for funds to help flood hit farmers.
Call 024 7669 0587