What a difference a year makes! This time last year we were looking at one of the wettest summers and very difficult conditions in the run-up to harvest. In addition we had to contend with the uncertainty caused by Brexit and the weakened pound.
12 months on and although there has been occasional flooding and very heavy downpours the weather has been much better in the North East. Other areas in Scotland have had too much of a good thing and crops have been stunted due to drought conditions. This could potentially lead to a shortage of straw post-harvest and lower yields being recorded.
The Brexit issue is still rumbling on and although there has been a promise of Support payments post Brexit, it is not known what these will look like. In addition there is still no solution to the problem with the system for processing applications or indeed whether subsidy payments will be made on time to all farmers.
The supply of labour from the EU is now under threat with no guarantee that EU workers will return after Britain leaves the EU. The number of foreign workers coming into the UK for seasonal agricultural work has already reduced due to improved working conditions in their home country and the impact of the UK exchange rate on their income.
The ban on Glycosphate was postponed in 2016 and is due to be decided upon in December this year. In the meantime Syngenta, along with other organisations, have instigated independent testing as to the impact of nicotinoids on the bee population in UK & EU. The results of 3 years of testing are still being analysed but it is looking likely that the ban will come into effect with no viable alternative available.
Recent arable crop trials have resulted in a few new varieties now being licensed. Potentially this gives farmers more choice and allows them to find the product most suitable for their growing plan for the coming year. However, it still requires co-operation from the maltsters in sourcing competitive markets for these.
The red meat market is still looking strong, with exports playing their part and the pig market is also looking positive in Scotland, with profits being recorded in both sectors.
If the crop harvest can be filled with heavy yields and buoyant premiums then hopefully farmers will feel more positive about the industry.