Downpours see pea crop forecast cut

Fears for this year’s vining pea crop continue to grow as torrential rains disrupted harvesting and devastated crops this week.

Growers throughout Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire have been forced to delay harvesting after fields were left sodden and harvesting machines sank in the mud.

Yields were already expected to be hit after six weeks of warm, dry weather earlier in the year hampered drilling and left growers struggling to find sufficient soil moisture.

But Stephen Francis, managing director of Lincolnshire farmer-owned business Fen Peas, which grows 1750ha (4324 acres) of vining peas for Christian Salvesen and Premier Foods, said up to 25% of the crop could now be damaged by the bad weather.

“At the moment we are 11% into our harvesting programme and our yields are average. But we have had 7in of water on the peas in the past 11 days, and if they stand in water for 24 hours the crop is ruined.

“As well as causing our harvesting machines to get stuck, the wet weather has also meant the spray programme for dealing with mould and pests has gone out of the window, so there’s risk of disease.”

Grower groups had predicted they would produce 70-75% of their budgeted yield, but with more rain forecast over the weekend, Mr Francis said that figure could go down further, severely affecting UK pea supplies.

“We haven’t achieved 100% yields for the past few years because of extreme weather, so stocks are down,” he said. “With lower yields this year we may not meet demand.

“On the back of a poor year in 2006, the crop again looks like it will lose money.” Growers could switch other crops, he said.

Stranded… Rains have lashed vining pea crops and left machines high and dry this week.

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