UK cereal farmers who help produce our daily bread have suffered a devastating harvest this year with the biggest wheat fall on record.

The NFU’s annual Cereals Survey* – published today – reveals that the wheat harvest is estimated to be as much as 30% down on 2000 because of last winter’s floods, which damaged growing crops and made it impossible for some farmers to plant at all.

Many arable farmers will now be focused purely on surviving through to next year’s harvest.

The situation is being made worse by the over-valuation of sterling against the euro, the rate that determines the level of arable aid support payments in the UK. Over the last five years cereal support payments in Europe have risen by 15%, compared to a drop of 18% in the UK.

The NFU is calling for the full payment of the agrimoney aid, the European Union mechanism available to partially offset this loss. The Government can apply for a further £57 million this year, which will be critical to the very survival of many producers. But the Government only has 30 days to apply for it.

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NFU President Ben Gill will present a document – Crisis in the Cereal Sector** – to DEFRA Secretary of State Margaret Beckett at the NFU’s fringe meeting at the Labour Party Conference on Sunday, setting out the plight of arable farmers.

The facts are stark:

  • This year’s wheat harvest is down 30% – some five million tonnes – and the amount of land that was planted with wheat was down 20%.

  • The Arable Area Payment in the UK has fallen by £46 per hectare in the last five years, a drop of 18%. Over the same period, farmers in other EU countries have experienced a rise in arable support payments of 15%, equivalent to about £43 per hectare at the current exchange rates.

  • Arable farm incomes crashed by 61% last year.

  • The number of arable farm workers dropped by 17% between 1998 and 2000.

He said: “Cereal farmers have been in an increasingly precarious position in recent years because of the strength of the pound, which is a millstone around their necks. The floods last winter have made the situation even worse.

“The Government has a real opportunity to help the producers of our daily bread but it must act now – time is running out to apply for agrimoney aid. It must not neglect its duty.”

Notes to editors:

*The full results of the NFU’s Cereals Survey are available from the NFU Press Office.

**The Crisis in the Cereal Sector document is available from the Press Office in advance of the fringe meeting, which takes place at 7.30pm on Sunday 30 September at the Royal Albion Hotel, Brighton.

Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided in this document, the NFU cannot accept liability for errors and omissions.  This information should not be regarded as constituting legal advice, and should therefore not be relied upon as such.  NFU©