Rapeseed farmers count cost as stormy weather causes £15,000 damage
One of Northern Ireland's biggest farming success stories is facing a dismal harvest after their crop was battered by high winds.
Richard Kane, who makes premium Broighter Gold rapeseed oil at his farm in Limavady, is counting the cost after losing 30% of the crop to last Sunday's lightning storm.
He estimates that the bad weather has cost the business around £15,000.
"It's pretty awful weather. Over the last weekend there has been nearly an inch of rain each time and then there was the storm on Sunday," he said.
"The oilseed is very brittle just before harvesting and we lost about 30% of it. It has cost us about £15,000 as it came at exactly the wrong time. There is nothing you can do."
The crop was planted almost a year ago, in the last week of August 2015, and the team should have been half-way through the harvest by now - but were hit by delays due to months of wet weather earlier this year.
"It all goes back to the wintertime. The five months of rain in the winter left all the crops very late," Richard said. "The rain has been holding us back and we couldn't get to the crop and this storm just came in at the wrong time."
The team had been poised to start harvesting on Monday - but the storm hit the night before.
"It's the first year in a long time that we've had so many losses due to wind. It was the storm - it just came on the wrong day," he said.
"When we came to cut it, it was lost and that was it, end of story. You grow it for 50 weeks and it's lost in a day."
Richard posted a video online showing the wind and rain battering the oilseed crop, commenting: "If you look closely you will see so many of the pods broken and the seeds lost. All prayers or sun dances welcome for the weather to change."
Even the crop that hasn't been damaged will be more costly to process, Richard said.
"It means that drying costs escalate because of the wet weather and it all builds up," he said.
Broighter Gold is run by Richard and his wife Leona.
The award-winning infused oil has reached the dinner plates of many famous figures, including US President Barack Obama as well as the Queen when she was hosted at Titanic Belfast. Chef Noel McMeel of the Lough Erne Resort used it for the G8 summit.
Their most recent success came when their 'special edition' with flakes of edible 23ct gold won two stars at the Guild of Fine Food's Great Taste Awards 2016.
The business was formed in 2011, with Leona taking over all aspects of Broighter Gold, from marketing and bottling, right down to product photography.
She also enlisted a designer to create the company's logo. She used social media to get in touch with chefs and now supplies many top hotels and restaurants.