Harvest 2020 has seen ‘some of the poorest crops cut in living memory’

Reports from around the country suggest Scotland’s 2020 cereal harvest is drawing to a close and many parts have been blessed with ideal sowing conditions to get much of next year’s crop into the ground.

While the results of the National Farmers’s Union (NFU) Scotland annual harvest survey will be analysed over the next few days, initial figures suggest a wide variance in yields, largely driven by very mixed weather conditions at sowing – both autumn 2019 and spring 2020 – and at harvest.

As a result, straw yields have also been affected, with some reporting a record number of bales and others left short of supplies.

Disappointingly, spot prices, particularly for premium crops like malting barley, have struggled to cover cost of production and that is influencing planting decisions.

There is some disruption at intakes, a legacy of supply chains being interrupted because of Covid-19, meaning significantly more grain is currently being stored on farms than would normally be the case at this time.

Harvest yields vary

NFU Scotland’s Combinable Crops Chairman, Willie Thomson, who farms at Wheatrig near Longniddry, said:

“Harvest is finished for most farmers in East Lothian with just some later spring barley, oats and beans to finish off.

Yields vary massively from some excellent wheat and barley to some of the poorest crops cut in living memory, with the wet autumn and winter followed by the dry spring largely to blame.

“Spring crops in general have been very good which will have been a lifeline to many but with over supply, low spot price, slow movement for some, quality issues and rejections casting a cloud over the malting barley harvest.

“This is reflected by many growers pushing on and putting in more wheat for harvest 2021 at the expense of spring cropping.

“Winter oilseed rape has been sown in some great conditions, and lots of wheat and winter barley are due to be planted in the coming weeks.

“Forward prices for 2021 are giving growers confidence, but we are aware that these crops will be sold into the post-Brexit marketplace and that brings uncertainty.”