Chips not so cheap as wet weather threatens price hike

David Armstrong, Nfu Char from Bardney
David Armstrong, Nfu Char from Bardney
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farmers are warning of possible price rises and even food shortages after admitting they are struggling to cope with some of the wettest Springs in history.

Acres of farmland are still unworkable after record rainfall levels were reported for the region during April.

The bad weather has come at one of the busiest times of the year for farmers who are locked in a desperate race to make up time.

To add to their mounting frustration, the crisis has come in the middle of a drought, which one farmer described as “laughable and a total nonsense.”

David Armstrong, chairman of the Lincolnshire NFU, farms near Bardney. Normally, he has completed planting as many as 170 acres of potatoes. This year, he has planted less than 50 acres.

Mr Armstrong said: “It is as bad as I’ve known it. The potatoes we have managed to get in the ground are sodden. We’d love to get on and plant the rest but the soil is too heavy.

“It’s not just us. It’s a county-wide if not nationwide problem. Every farmer you talk to is struggling.

“It is important to point out that a lot of crops have an amazing ability to recover. There is no panic but obviously the yield could be down in Autumn.

“That’s when we could get big problems. If it’s wet or cold then, it will have a knock-on regarding next year.

“It’s a bit early to say but you could be talking about a rise in price or even a shortage. It could be that bad.”

Mr Armstrong stressed the price and availability of potatoes is driven by many factors, not just the weather.

Already, though, there are plans to import an increasing number of potatoes from Holland and Spain.

It’s not just potato farmers who are struggling. Many traditional crops, including sugar beet, have been devastated.

There are also fears the wheat harvest will fall well short of usual levels while farmers are reporting livestock are still being housed indoors - more than a month later than usual,

Stephen Ireland, who farms at Horsington, confirmed his cows and calves were indoors.

He said: “It’s too wet and too cold to put them out. If you let them out and they slip and injury themselves because it’s wet, it could cost a lot of money.”

Mr Ireland confirmed there were extra “feeding costs” involved in keeping livestock indoors for long periods. That, in turn, could lead to a rise in prices to consumers.

He added: “It’s a pretty depressing picture all round. I’ve used all my silage. No-one I know has planted a potato yet. A neighbouring farm has not turned a wheel since April 2.

“Wheat is having a really bad time of it. Sugar beet is struggling. There’s an old saying that sugar beet should ‘be meeting across the row before Lincolnshire Show.’

“Well, there’s no chance any crop will do that this year. It’s been the hardest few weeks I’ve known for a long, long time. I’m not saying it’s the worst ever but it’s close.

“On the one hand, we don’t want any more rain for the next month but on the other, we’re in a drought. That’s laughable. It’s a total nonsense.

“Anglian Water keep telling us there’s a water shortage. They ought to come out and look at the state of some of the fields around here.”

There seems little chance of an improvement with the latest forecasts suggesting the cold, wet weather will continue.