David Exwood is happy with his oat crop. Like other cereals winter stores in drought, they have benefited from the rain in the first part of the year and then the heat wave ripened the crop and dried it before harvest.
But it’s still an anxious time. Not only because combining your harvest on rocky ground brings with it the risk of sparks and fires.
He also raises beef and right now, with no green grass for them to eat, he has to feed them what he has stored for the winter.
Shocks like that can affect food prices. And it’s not just cattle. Other crops, such as potatoes, carrots, onions, and sugar beets, are thirsty and drought-sensitive.
Yields from these are forecast to be 10 to 50% lower than in a typical year.
It is not yet clear if this year’s harvest will translate into higher food prices; that largely depends on how wet the winter is. But it is a big concern with high inflation and the looming cost of living crisis.
Exwood, who is also vice president of the National Farmers Union, argues that the challenge of water scarcity is not new.
But successive governments have failed to introduce measures to encourage farmers to winter stores in drought store more water on farms and to better coordinate the response between their sector, water companies and the Environment Agency.
“We have enough water in this country,” says Exwood. “We just need to invest in the infrastructure to have it in the right place at the right time.”