By Robert Harris
UK farmers have gathered 22.9 million tonnes of cereals this harvest – 2.6% less than last year, according to the NFU production estimate released today (Tuesday).
It predicts a slight rise in wheat production of 3.1% on 1997, to 15.5m tonnes, from an average yield of 7.6t/ha, 2.6% higher than last year. However, this hides regional variations which show yields were 9% down in the south-west, and by over 2% in the north. East Anglia fared best, showing a 7.3% rise.
Winter barley output slumped by 14.5% to 4.5m tonnes, partly due to a fall in planted area of almost 9%. But big yield losses played a part too.
Average output fell almost 10% on 1997 to 5.69t/ha. But yields dropped dramatically in the north (-18%) and the West Midlands (-13.4%). Output was also hit in the East Midlands and the south-west, both areas recording more than a 10% fall.
The east again fared well, recording the smallest drop of 2%. The south-east also escaped lightly with a 2.7% fall.
UK Spring barley production fell by 13% to 2.23m tonnes.
“Farmers cash flow is being hit by low prices and in some cases by low yields as well,” said NFU cereals committee chairman Richard Butler. “One way in which MAFF could help make a difference is to ensure that the IACS payment which is payable from October reaches farmers as soon as possible.”