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Cereal farms left looking for light on the horizon

By Allan Preston

Published 11/08/2016

Cereal farmers in Northern Ireland are desperate for brighter weather after a disappointing start to the harvest season.

For most farms here, the harvest of winter barley started two weeks ago.

James Mathers, chair of the Ulster Arable Society, said initial crop reports showed lower yields and bushel weights than normal.

"Most growers were holding out hope of good yields to offset lower prices, but this doesn't appear to have happened," he said.

Limavady farmer Richard Kane reported bad weather had ruined 30% of his oilseed rape crop, but Mr Mathers said other crops such as oats were also in difficulty.

"Initial samples of winter sown crop are slightly below average in terms of milling quality. But we'll not get a clear picture on the whole crop for a number of weeks yet and will have to wait and see how spring crops perform," he said.

Chris Cairnduff, manager of agriculture merchant East Down Farmers, said: "I wouldn't like to be a cereal grower at the minute."

He said that of the 37 farms he bought from, most had £130 less to sell per acre.

"That's a lot for a grower. In our store we're about 4-500 tonnes light of what we expected. It's hard to work with."

"It's always a gamble, but crops are a game. Everything's weather-dependent. Even last year farmers struggled to make crops pay on a good yield, never mind a bad one."

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