Belfast Telegraph

Rain cheers farmers as union warns crop failure still a threat

By Jane Scott

Farmers across Northern Ireland breathed a brief sigh of relief yesterday after rain fell for the first time in weeks.

Scattered showers hit western areas in the early hours, before moving eastwards throughout the day and night.

While this did offer some glimmers of hope for the agricultural industry, many farmers would have preferred a washout after weeks of dry and hot weather, which have impacted on animal welfare and the production of food.

Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) president and pig farmer Ivor Ferguson from Co Armagh said that the limited rainfall would be assisting farmers who are still facing challenges in terms of water availability for their crops and livestock.

"We are monitoring the situation on a daily basis, but it's very difficult as there's not an awful lot that people can do," he added.

"Certainly the vegetable sector is under extreme pressure as they are looking at total crop failure.

"All livestock sectors are under severe pressure and this is eating into winter supplies of fodder which is a big concern and could be a problem in the winter months."

Mr Ferguson acknowledged that people seemed to be abiding by the hosepipe ban, which has been in effect since June 29.

However, for David Kelly, manager of Downpatrick-based agriculture merchant East Down Farmers, yesterday's rain was not enough.

"We are giving winter feed to cattle to keep them surviving out in the fields," he said.

"It is getting to the point where things could get quite serious if we don't get rain soon."

NI Water said yesterday that the public reaction to the hosepipe ban had been fantastic.

It added that the ban is under review and will not be maintained for any longer than absolutely necessary.

The state-owned water company has also refuted reports that it does not have the legal authority to implement the ongoing ban.

Yesterday it was reported that the legal basis for its hosepipe ban lacks solid foundation.

NI Water said in response: "We believe that the Order, Act 116 of 2006 has been interpreted correctly.

"NI Water is content that the prohibitions contained within the hosepipe ban notice are in line with Article 116.

"However, bringing the ban in was about seeking the public's help in reducing demand; it was not about prosecutions."

Belfast Telegraph

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