The Autumn Synod over, so I can concentrate on what is going on in the countryside, after a remarkable summer of excellent weather for harvesting.
All the reports in the farming press have commented on the various yields across the country from minus 20% to minus 10% on wheat and barley. Oil seed rape has been nearer the average and now we are moving into the sugar beet harvest with Bury St Edmunds opening last week and Wissington and Cantley this week. The delay, with opening usually mid September, was prompted by the dry summer months so the extra time for growing seemed appropriate. On the plus side the price of wheat and barley are some £40 per tonne higher due to the value of the pound, which is very low.
Potatoes are now being lifted and the prediction of a shortage seems likely, again due to the dry growing period. Looking back over my farming years, the 1976 harvest was the earliest I can remember, finishing early August, but what followed was very different to this year, there was a very wet September, making autumn drilling very difficult. There was different machinery then to what is available today, provided the finance is available.
The Agriculture Bill is going through parliament at present, but it seems to ignore the views of those it is meant to serve. The NFU (National farmers Union) are in on the consultation but are struggling to get beyond the rhetoric , although it s accepted what needs to done there just don't appear to be any decisions. If only 'Brexit' would come to a conclusion that might influence some positive decisions on the future of farming. Next year's crops are already growing to be harvested next July / August and we don't know who we will be trading with worldwide. Please negotiators make a move to resolve what our future holds. We have heard enough excuses.
There's a prayer in the back of the Gideon book of New testament and psalms which I think is appropriate - Bless us ,O God, we who live close to the land. Help us, as you have helped others before us. They, like we, know the struggles, the fears, the joy and the rewards of life in the rural area. Help us to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.Amen.
George W Frost.
Agricultural Chaplain. East Anglia District Methodist Church.
Update to my report. November 2018
There have been so many changes since I submitted my report I thought it worthwhile for an update.
Cereal prices, wheat and barley have stabilised around £10 per tonne lower than a year ago. O.S.R prices are slightly higher at £ 320 per tonne.
Sugar beet are the contentious crop at present with a poor and late drilling in the spring followed by a very dry time for growing root crops is reflected by the harvest taking place at the moment. Although sugar content is higher than most years, at around 20% yields are down 20 tonnes per hectare. The next question will be whether farmers will use beet as a break crop as next year's price will be £3.50 per tonne lower. When prices drop below £20 per tonne there would need to be some calculating of possible returns against other crops.
Most land has now been planted, apart from land where sugar beet have been harvested. so it's on going.
Colman's mustard has been produced in Norfolk for 200 years and the good news is that a consortium have acquired planning permission to build a new factory near the Norfolk show ground so we will still be able to buy mustard grown and processed locally.
No need to mention 'Brexit' as we all know there is a 'NO' decision, or will it be a 'Yes'??
George W Frost.