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No rain cause severe pain for farmers

PUBLISHED: 12:28 21 April 2003 | UPDATED: 13:46 03 March 2010

FARMERS in Suffolk and Essex are warning that crop yield could drop by up to 50% this summer if more rain does not fall in the next few days.

The region has not seen a drop of rain for more than a month, with only a quarter of an inch on March 6.

FARMERS in Suffolk and Essex are warning that crop yield could drop by up to 50% this summer if more rain does not fall in the next few days.

The region has not seen a drop of rain for more than a month, with only a quarter of an inch on March 6.

There has been no substantial downpour – of more than an inch - since December 22 last year.

Peter Hawes, chairman of Essex NFU, who farms 4,500 acres across East Anglia, warned of "very long term serious loss and consequences" if the weather does not break soon.

He said the "drought" could cause potential losses of up to 50% in some crops, with uneven ripening making spray control very difficult. With grass not growing at its usual rate either, he added, livestock farmers could also get into difficulties.

"You can put your hand down the cracks in the earth," he said.

"Never before have you been able to do that in April."

Stephen Rash, chairman of Suffolk NFU, said the situation was getting desperate for farmers across the region with spring sown cereals and vegetables, such as sugar beet, under serious threat.

He added: "If the rain forecast for this weekend turns up it will be just in time to stop too much serious damage being done. This is an extremely unusual occurrence. We're moving into the unknown now. I have been farming since 1972 and I can't remember weather conditions like this.

"This is a key time when the spring plants are beginning to grow need a continuous supply of rain."

Only 0.6 inches fell in East Anglia last month, compared with an average of 1.62in. February saw only 0.67, compared with an expected 1.55in for the month.

Arable farmer John Adams, who owns 1,200 acres in Felixstowe, said wheat, cereal and sugar beet crops had all germinated so far, but needed more rain as soon as possible.

He added: "At the moment it's not having too much of a detrimental effect on wheat and cereal. There were worries about the sugar beet as we haven't had a drop since we drilled it but they've all seemed to come up OK. We are all hoping it will rain before too long."


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