Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Wet weather hampers harvest in East of England

ITV News Anglia's Tanya Mercer talks to a farmer in Suffolk. Credit: ITV News Anglia
Harvest is in full swing across the region. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The harvest of cereals in the East of England generates around £820 million a year to the region's economy, but this year farmers say the weather has hampered their efforts.

East Anglia - known as the breadbasket of England - is the UK’s most productive agricultural region.

Brian Barker is the fourth generation to work on his family farm in mid Suffolk. He says harvest is the most exciting time of the agricultural year, but also the hardest.

“We’ve had some really outstanding crops." he said. "Well above the UK average. We’re in very good soil here. We can combine around 500 tonnes in one day depending on the sunshine and the moisture of the grain.”

But there has been a dampener on the good yields. The changeable weather has halted combining.

“Moisture has to be below 14.5% to combine and we need sunshine and wind for that," Mr Barker added. "And we just haven’t had the long spell of sunshine we need for a continuous run. It’s really frustrating.”

Last year’s cereals harvest was worth £820 million in the East of England.

Last year’s cereals harvest was worth £820 million in the East of England. Credit: ITV News Anglia

More than a quarter of England’s wheat crop (28%) is grown here.

More than a quarter of England’s wheat crop (28%) is grown here. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The wheat harvested in this region is enough to make 5.8 billion loaves of bread.

The wheat harvested in this region is enough to make 5.8 billion loaves of bread. Credit: ITV News Anglia

And the barley grown in East Anglia could produce 2.5 million pints of beer.

And the barley grown in East Anglia could produce 2.5 million pints of beer. Credit: ITV News Anglia

With such huge amounts being harvested and with efficiency paramount, farmers are reliant on their machines. Just outside Bury St Edmunds is the UK’s biggest supplier and service provider of combines.

Service Manager Tom Gutteridge said: “At this time of year, engineers are servicing both in the workshop and in the field to ensure the machines run like clockwork. We’re working flat out.

"The combines have the same amount of technology as a Formula One car, with GPS, satellite connection, computers that read yields and they can run 24/7 in good weather and we have to support that.”

The use of this technology has revolutionised the harvest operation.

Farm machines need servicing. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Brian Barker said: “When my great-grandfather started it was a really labour intensive business.

"They had horses and then much smaller machines. They had to cut the grain by hand, stack them in sheaths and then collect them up. They would then have had to thresh it separately.

"Now with a combine we do all that in one go. A couple of men with a combine and tractor can do the job that was once done by 30 people.”

The harvest remains hard work and with long hours. There’s no doubt the process has changed beyond recognition in the space of a generation. But what hasn’t changed is the vital role this region plays in producing some of our most important crops.

Click below to watch our special report from Tanya Mercer