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North Suffolk: Low rainfall very costly

PUBLISHED: 11:29 02 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:24 06 July 2010

EXCEPTIONALLY low levels of rainfall during the last two months are proving "very costly" to Suffolk's farmers, the chairman of their union has said.

John Collen, chairman of the Suffolk National Farmers' Union (NFU), said a lack of rain since the beginning of August was impacting on crops as well as farm machinery which was wearing out more quickly on the baked earth.

EXCEPTIONALLY low levels of rainfall during the last two months are proving “very costly” to Suffolk's farmers, the chairman of their union has said.

John Collen, chairman of the Suffolk National Farmers' Union (NFU), said a lack of rain since the beginning of August was impacting on crops as well as farm machinery which was wearing out more quickly on the baked earth.

After a wet July, both August and September were much drier than normal and only 37pc of the average rainfall was recorded during each month. Only 38mm of rain has fallen since August 1 with the average being 102mm.

Mr Collen, of Lowestoft, said: “The impact for farmers is that we are drilling next year's crops into incredibly dry seed beds which is leading to very patchy emergence of seed crops.

“There is also the immediate effect that British Sugar is beginning its campaign of processing this year's sugar beet crop but many harvesters are not able to work as the ground is so hard.”

Mr Collen said the situation had been worsened by a number of warm days with strong winds which meant any moisture evaporated even more quickly.

“The levels of rain since the beginning of August have been exceptionally low,” he added.

“The situation is very costly at the moment as not only are the crops germinating badly but where people are still working the land has become very hard because there is no moisture and there are much higher wear rates (on machinery).”

He added farmers ideally needed two inches of rain spread over two or three days, with three or four warm days to follow.

Lady Caroline Cranbrook, vice president of the Country, Land and Business Association, said the situation was not yet serious enough for food prices to be affected.

She added: “There is not enough for the birds to drink as many ponds have dried up. People really need to put water out for them preferably in something flat like a pie dish.”

But relief for farmers does not seem to be on the horizon yet.

Chris Bell, a forecaster for Weatherquest in Norwich, said the weather was going to be dry at least until the end of next week apart from the possibility of a little rain on Saturday.

Chris Hussey, who oversees administration and finance at Alton Water near Ipswich, said it had been a “slightly worse than average year but nothing to worry about.”

“We have an island which on a particularly bad year will pop up and say hello but that is still about two metres under water at the moment,” he added.

Sara Rowland, from Anglian Water, said heavy rainfall in July - which was almost twice as much as normal - balanced out the last two months.

“The last two months have been very dry but in the long-term that is not an issue,” she added.

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