British farming in crisis as crop losses from 'relentless' floods pile up woes
It is only now becoming apparent just how terrible sodden 2012 has been for farmers, particularly those in the north-west and south-west. Wheat yields were at their lowest level since the 1980s, the potato crop at its lowest since 1976. The oilseed rape harvest and barley yields also suffered. Livestock farmers suffered too. The wet weather conditions sent the price of animal feed soaring as farmers were forced to keep their animals indoors.
For some, the consequences threaten to be devastating. Recent figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs paint a bleak picture of a year many would prefer to forget. Dairy farmers saw their income plunge by 42%. Livestock and pig farmers have seen their incomes as much as halved. There were double-digit decreases for cereal and crop farmers, too.
Many have seen their profits completely wiped out. The only way they can survive is by borrowing from the banks. "We are seeing increased levels of indebtedness," said Charles Smith, chief executive of Farm Crisis Network. "For some it's becoming unsustainable."
In a normal year one type of farming might be affected by poor conditions. "It might be fruit or arable or sheep," Smith said. "But in the last year every aspect of farming was affected. It has been relentless."