'Challenging' harvest could push bread prices higher after wet July

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A farmer from Northumberland has told ITV News Tyne Tees he is "extremely concerned" about this year's harvest following one of the wettest Julys on record.

Jonny Rutherford from Longhorsley, near Morpeth, said his team are working around the clock while the rain holds off in order to get the harvest done.

He said: "It's put a lot of crops flat which damages grain quality, makes the moisture a lot higher, when you try and combine it. It makes operations a lot slower.

"We've also had big issues with field conditions, travelling, getting stuck, there's a lot of ruts in the field where we've made mess earlier in the year when it's been very wet."

Farmers harvesting winter oats Credit: ITV News

Asked how worried he was about the harvest this year, he added: "We are extremely concerned, there's been a lot of challenges with the weather."

Mr Rutherford sends his grains to North East Grains, a large operation with shed loads of grains ready to be processed.

Matthew Curry, director of the company, said the drying process, which usually gets through 100 tonnes of grains per hour, is currently only getting through 70 tonnes per hour due to how wet the grains are.

North East Grains Credit: ITV News

He said: "We didn't see very much grain at all in July and then as soon as August has come along we've seen a huge amount of grain come in a very, very short window.

"Today, we're probably 40% behind where we were this time last year and that's because of the weather we've had throughout the month of July really."

He said that the impact on the business is profound, adding: "It puts us under pressure, massively. I think we had 250 vehicles on site yesterday, alone. The grain has a higher moisture content than normal so it takes a lot more processing and a longer time to get through our system."

Grains loaded onto a wagon Credit: ITV News

Backlogs in processing the grains can quickly become shortages. Shortages can become a rise in costs for the industry, but also for consumers at the shop till.

Robert Frewin from the Country Land and Business Association said: "The wider impact is increase costs for the farmers. It may push the price of wheat up, for instance.

"That will push the price of bread up and given the squeeze that everybody is facing in the shops at the moment, the last thing you need is yet a further hike in prices."

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