The Long Hot Summer of 2018

12 September 2018

Whilst many of us have been basking in the glorious sunshine and high temperatures this year, some farmers have been experiencing the not-so -wonderful side effects of the extreme summer weather.

Crop failure has made 2018 pretty disastrous for many in the agricultural industry. Already we are being warned of a shortage of peas, grains and wheat, and the extended drought period has meant the potato harvest has been poor. Even forestry farming is about to experience a low blow as the Christmas Tree crop is expected to be well below average this year, with the consumer expected to pay a high price for a natural tree this Yuletide.

Arguably, livestock farmers have been affected the most. Weeks on end of little or no rain has meant not enough grass for grazing with many using their winter feed stocks to keep the cattle going. Others have been forced to sell early for lower prices, with lambs at market being smaller this year as sheep farmers find themselves in a similar position. Selling early softens the going rate, meaning higher feed costs are not being met by sales.

The situation highlights the fragility of the industry and the vulnerability of the farming community. If it’s too hot, too cold, too dry, too wet, or too windy, the knock-on effect for food production can be catastrophic. As consumers we have become complacent, expecting – demanding, even – an abundance of food, regardless of outside influences on the industry. This year in particular, the ravages of excessive heat have been felt all over Europe, so we cannot even expect imports to fill any gap, as farmers all over the EU find themselves in a similar position.

Of course, the record-breaking temperatures have benefited some. If you are growing avocados, hot chilli peppers or harvesting lavender, this is probably going to be a good year for you; but these crops are only a very small proportion of our expected agricultural output.

With recent uncertainties over milk prices, the future of subsidies and our exit from the EU, the farming community more than ever needs the support of the UK Government and the understanding of the British consumer, if it is to weather the stormy Autumn ahead.

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.

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