New measures to combat volatility needed, as survey reveals mixed harvest

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) is calling for Government help to build farm resilience against volatility, as its annual harvest survey shows mixed results across the arable sector.

Following a challenging year of extreme weather conditions and unpredictable prices, the varied results of this year’s harvest demonstrates the need for measures to be put in place to better manage volatility.

While the oilseed rape harvest fell in line with the five-year average, spring barley saw yield drop approximately 10%, marking its lowest since 2012.

Similarly, wheat yields reached 7.7t/ha, falling below the five year average of 8.2t/ha and hitting its lowest yield since 2013.

The results

  • Wheat yield: 7.7t/ha – down 6% on the five-year average (8.2t/ha);
  • Winter barley yield: 6.8t/ha – down 2% on the five-year average at 6.9t/ha;
  • Spring barley yield: 5.2t/ha – down 10% on the five-year average at 5.8t/ha and lowest yield since 2012 (5.0t/ha);
  • Oilseed rape yield: 3.6t/ha – slightly above the five-year average of 3.5t/ha.

NFU combinable crops board chairman Tom Bradshaw said: “The extreme weather events of this year have caused crop yields to become increasingly unpredictable.

“Despite our favourable climate and soil conditions, farmers have experienced an incredible amount of variation in this year’s harvest.

“With Brexit, the volatility of world commodity markets and the weather adding further uncertainty, farmers will be turning to the government for ways to build financial resilience into their businesses as farm payments are phased out over the next few years.

It is essential that a new domestic agriculture policy is supportive of resilience in the face of short-term localised shocks while driving long-term competitiveness.

The British arable sector is an important contributor to the nation’s economy and food supply.

Every year it provides five million tonnes of flour, barley and malt to make 985 million pints of beer, grain for 11 million tonnes of farmed animal feed, and underpins the production of the equivalent of 11 million loaves of bread every day.