A strong summer growing season has turned around the ailing fortunes of many Ulster farmers – and consumers look set to reap dividends too.
With a number of crops already being harvested and others soon to come, the Ulster Farmers’ Union’s (UFU) boss said the good weather has been the salvation of many in the agricultural community, following on from a soggy winter and frigid spring.
Meanwhile, shoppers may get a little relief at the checkout, too. Barry Beatty, 45, and from near Corr’s Corner, Co Antrim, is a potato merchant with WJ Beatty and Son. He said while last year’s crop was a “washout”, 2013 has been “ideal”.
“The consumer will more than likely be paying considerably less for potatoes than they have been for the last 12 months,” he said.
He estimated that, in rough terms, a 2.5kg bag of last year’s crop was ending up selling at about £2.50 to £2.70 per bag.
If all continues to be well, he said this year’s prices could drop to between £1.50 and £1.70.
The main potato harvest will take place in September and October, and he added: “It’s looking like a good crop – the best for several years.”
UFU cereals chairman John Best, 61 and from Poyntzpass, Co Armagh, said the winter barley crop was perhaps a week late.
But added: “If men had any inkling in May of the sort of yields they were going to get, they’d have been more than happy. Everybody has been pleasantly surprised, put it that way. I don’t think we’ve a lot to complain about at the moment. There’s no horror stories out there at the moment.
“Certainly it’s a big contrast to last year, which was a disaster, in terms of quality and quantity, and also ground conditions. Everything went wrong last year.” But as for this year: “Everything is going right – so far. But we’re only at the start of the harvest.”
UFU president Harry Sinclair said: “This summer has actually saved farming.
“A lot of people were pressed before this weather came. If it hadn’t come, I don’t think they would have survived it.
“A lot of farmers wouldn’t have been in a position to stand another costly year like last year.”
The 52-year-old from Draperstown, Co Londonderry, said when it comes to rapeseed: “It seems to have taken the most battering. It didn’t recover to the same extent as winter crops.”
But in general, he was hearing quite good reports across a number of crops. In June, July and August last year, Northern Ireland’s mean temperatures were 12C, 13.5C and 15.1C, respectively. Meanwhile, the same months to date in 2013 have seen mean temperatures of 13.1C, 17C and 15C, according to the Met Office.