Farmers to reap low cash reward from this year’s wheat harvest

Wheat being combined and loaded onto a trailer at Tony Gent's farm in Sutton St Edmund.
Wheat being combined and loaded onto a trailer at Tony Gent's farm in Sutton St Edmund.

Farmers harvesting wheat in South Holland’s fields will reap little or no cash rewards because the price has plummeted.

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) spokesman Alison Pratt says there’s been a 32 per cent drop in the “delivery off farm” price for milling wheat in the last five years.

If they (farmers) don’t make returns or profits the countryside will suffer.

Chris Carter

In 2010, farmers were getting £181 per tonne for their crop but that’s now down to £123 for this year’s harvest.

The latest price of £123 per tonne is £14 below the level achieved in August last year.

Arable farmers can grow a variety of crops, which means they are not risking financial ruin like those working in dairy or raising lambs for meat, but they are feeling a big financial squeeze on the wheat harvest.

Ms Pratt said: “With the price they are getting, it’s borderline whether they are making any money or not.”

A number of factors have come together to make it tough for our farmers, including a worldwide surplus of the crop, the strength of sterling alongside the weakness of the Euro and Russian president Vladimir Putin’s sanctions that have blocked imports.

Ms Pratt said: “What we have got to hope is that the pound weakens and we can export more.

“We would usually export a million or a million-and-a-half tonnes of wheat a year and that’s just not happening.”

Deeping St Nicholas farmer Chris Carter believes the countryside will suffer if agriculture no longer gives farmers the returns they need to be the caretakers of our environment.

He said: “Farmers, like it or not, help shape the countryside and they do that on the back of the returns or the profits they make.”

Mr Carter said it’s not just wheat with tumbling prices – other crops are being hit too, such as sugar beet which in 1995 was £38.50 a tonne while next year’s price will be a little over £20.

He’s calling on shoppers to buy British – support British farmers and their produce.

“If they (farmers) don’t make returns or profits the countryside will suffer,” he said.

Mr Carter would like to see Britain be more self sufficient, grow more and import less.

Farmer Tony Gent, a director of G S Gent and Sons Ltd at Sutton St Edmund, said the price of wheat is “at the lower end of the spectrum” and he and other farmers would like to see it higher.

But his firm has found a way to cut production expenses.

He said: “For the past seven or eight years, we have been producing our crop with a technique of no till, zero till, which considerably reduces the cost. This is one of the reasons for the success of the major producing countries of the rest of the world.”