Farmers lose a billion to rain and flooding
Farmers in the UK lost out on £1.3 billion last year after extreme rainfall battered crops and forced animals from the fields.
Figures from farm consultancy Andersons put the total income from farming at £5.3bn in 2011, but that plummeted to £4.25bn in 2012.
The National Farmers Union estimates the weather cost £600 million in lost output, with wheat and potato harvests particularly affected, and around £700 million in extra costs, such as feed for cattle.
But the direct losses have been compounded. Rural insurer NFU Mutual says weather-related claims were expected to top £108 million, but the ‘true cost’ of reduced yields and ruined crops would be “many times higher”.
The cancellation of countryside events alone is estimated to have cost £300 million, after the wettest summer in a century.
In addition, the cost of countryside crime rose to £53 million last year, according to NFU Mutual, with livestock worrying claims standing at an estimated £1 million.
The year showed no respite for farmers, said Charles Trotman, head of rural business development at the Country Land and Business Association.
He described it as a “nightmare” year for them.
“Many businesses have gone bust because people haven’t been able to recover the money they have laid out to put these events on,” he said.
And on the eve of the Oxford Farming Conference, the scale of the losses has prompted farming leader Peter Kendall to call for the continuation of subsidies under the EU Common Agricultural Policy, as well as some form of insurance against such events.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson will address the conference tomorrow and is likely to receive a thorough grilling on proposals to reform the CAP, as well as a code of conduct concerning the grocery trade.
Mr Kendall, president of the NFU, said a tranche of issues needed to be addressed.
“The year has starkly demonstrated the cost that extreme weather events can wreak on farmers and the food supply chain,” he said.
“As we enter 2013, many farmers are in areas under water or facing huge feed bills for their livestock.
“Extreme weather certainly requires fresh thinking from agricultural policymakers and the whole food-supply chain to ensure that our farmers can adapt and our food supply is resilient.”
Better relationships and sharing of risk in the food-supply chain would help farmers plan in volatile and uncertain times, he said.
Mr Kendall added: “We’re seeing evidence of positive moves by retailers to create meaningful long-term relationships with farmers, which will provide much greater security of supply. In years like 2012, it is very clear to see that the support farming receives from the CAP is an absolute lifeline to many farmers.
“If there is to be a reduction in these payments it should take place evenly across Europe’s single market. Already an English dairy farmer, on a typical 100-hectare farm, receives 20,000 euros a year less than a Danish or Dutch competitor. This has to stop.”