Rain delay frustrates farmers’ efforts to complete East Anglia’s harvest

A combine harvester working in a field near Reymeston. Picture: Matthew Usher.

A combine harvester working in a field near Reymeston. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Unseasonal rain showers have frustrated the efforts of the region's arable farmers this week, delaying the final completion of the harvest.

Industry analysts say about three quarters of East Anglia's cereal crops had been gathered by the time the wet weather arrived.

Barley and oilseed rape crops are mostly finished, but almost half of the wheat is estimated to remain in the fields, with progress about 10-14 days behind the norm.

But quality so far has been good, and yields have been excellent – helping to counteract the effect of the corresponding low grain prices

Tim Isaac, east regional manager for sector levy board AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds, said: 'Frustration has been dominating the conversation in our region. The end was in sight, then what at one point was forecast to be a dry week turned out to be anything but.

'It is still too soon to tell to give an overall picture. A lot of these rain showers are quite sporadic and it is very humid, so even when it is not raining it is difficult to get the moisture out of the crop. But if we get a run of three dry days, suddenly everything looks different.'

Paul Dowson, a Swaffham-based wheat trader at Gleadell Agriculture, said: 'There is probably about 40-50pc of the wheat crop still sitting in the fields across East Anglia.

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'There is some frustration at not being able to get finished, and at the low global prices, with the strong pound not helping our exports either. But it is compensated to some extent by the high yields.

'The weather at the moment is not having a massive impact on quality, but we won't know more until we see some samples of the grain being cut at the weekend. That is going to be the key. Protein is a bit variable, but it is all usable and at the moment I would say the quality has been good and the yields have been phenomenal, which is going to have an effect on prices.'

Andy Austin, farm business manager at the Bressingham office of farmer-owned co-operative Openfield, added: 'A few farmers are actually finished but as you travel further west in the region there is still around 50pc of wheat still to cut. All samples received so far are of good quality. 'Very good yields are still being reported, which is obviously fantastic news for growers and will go some way in making up for the very low commodity prices which we are all receiving at present.'

Tell us your harvest stories by contacting chris.hill@archant.co.uk.