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Below average cereal harvest expected across Europe as combines start to roll across East Anglia

PUBLISHED: 17:30 13 July 2017

Harvesting has begun on a farm near Elmswell. The crop  collected is winter barley. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Harvesting has begun on a farm near Elmswell. The crop collected is winter barley. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Combines have started rolling across parts of East Anglia against a backdrop of an expected below-average cereal harvest across Europe for the second year running.

According to the latest EU short term economic outlook for agricultural markets, due to heat waves and drought in some countries, in particular Spain, EU cereal production is forecast at 298m tonnes - an increase of 3.4m tonnes on last year.

However, prices are not expected to rise, as levels of global production are expected to reach sufficient levels to meet demand.

However, oilseeds and protein crops production is expected to recover after two smaller-than-usual harvests due to an increase in the area planted to a record high of nearly 13.7m hectares, as well as a higher yield for rapeseed thanks to better weather conditions.

Meanwhile, the first year without sugar production quotas resulted in a significant increase of beet planted area. EU white sugar production for 2017-18 is now forecast at 20.1m tonnes, 20% above the 2016-17 level but a more modest 3% increase on 2014-15.

In East Anglia, Tuesday’s rain brought the early harvest to a temporary halt for those farmers who have started harvesting, but provided a welcome boost to those growing crops such as sugar beet and potatoes.

NFU regional crops board member John Collen, who farms near Lowestoft, said: “It’s frustrating to have to stop for rain when the crops and ready and you’ve made a start on harvest, but it’s also helpful to have some rain to bring the crops on. We started combining oilseed rape again at 7pm last night (Wednesday) and so far the yields are pleasing. We’re not dissatisfied with what we’ve seen so far.”

Glen Buckingham, Suffolk NFU vice chair and farm manager at Helmingham Estate Farms, near Stowmarket, said he was expecting to start his winter barley harvest either this weekend or early in the week, followed by oilseed rape.

The long spell of dry weather over the spring period had caused headaches, but he was “reasonably optimistic” about the harvest overall considering “the season we have had and the lack of water”, he said, adding that the dry spring had been “very concerning”. “I think the rain came in time for what we have got to make it respectable,” he said.

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