Arable farmers face losing 'nearly a billion' due to wet winter

Key arable crops are set to reduce by 19% following relentless autumn and winter rainfall
Key arable crops are set to reduce by 19% following relentless autumn and winter rainfall

Arable farmers face losing nearly a billion in revenue as a result of the wet winter, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) has revealed.

Analysis by the non-profit organisation found that revenue from key arable crops is set to reduce by 19% following relentless autumn and winter rainfall.

Based on current prices for wheat, barley, oats and oilseed rape, and previous estimates of the impact of the wet winter on harvests this year, farmers could lose £890m on these crops compared to what they could have made if they’d produced as much as in 2023.

Compared to the average production achieved between 2015-2023, these losses increased to £1.2 billion, according to ECIU's analysis.

The analysis does not cover crops such as potatoes, sugar beet and field vegetables, all hit hard by heavy rainfall, with the group warning that the real financial impact was likely to be much higher.

Tom Lancaster, land analyst at ECIU said: "With crops hit by the winter washout, the UK’s food security has been shaken and farmers are left counting the cost.

“There is now an urgent need to move faster to support farmers to become more resilient to these impacts."

Compared to the same level of production as 2023, and based on selling at current prices, ECIU estimates that farmers stand to lose £751m on the wheat harvest, £183m on winter barley and £173 on oilseed rape.

These are only partly offset by gains of £43m growing oats and £175m more growing spring barley.

When applied to some hypothetical example farms, these losses translate to tens of thousands of pounds in lost revenue for farms typical of their region.

Applied to a 500ha farm in the east of England with average cropping, the analysis suggests losses around £80,000 this year.

In a potential lifeline for farmers, figures recently released to parliament by Farming Minister Mark Spencer suggest that much of this lost revenue could be offset by income from the new Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), more details of which were released this week.

Using these Defra figures, ECIU estimates that three out of four of these example farms could generate scheme payments in excess of these projected losses.

For example, a typical 250ha farm in the East Midlands would generate a scheme payment of £37,000, against projected wet winter losses of £35,000.

Mr Lancaster said more regenerative farming and nature-friendly techniques were 'a key part' in any new support for farmers.

"The government’s new green farming schemes can also provide vital income to offset these climate losses, providing a climate lifeline for those hardest hit.”

The analysis comes after the NFU recently warned that the drastic reduction in crops had shown just how vulnerable British farms are.

Its election manifesto sets out how more funding is needed by the Environment Agency so it can deliver a plan of management and re-investment in the watercourses and flood defences.

The manifesto also urges the next government to commit to an agricultural budget that ensures British farming can meet the challenges of climate change.