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It's been a better year for farmers, but the challenges don't stop

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: August 07, 2014

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AN Ashbourne farmer is staying upbeat about this year's bumper harvest of wheat despite prices for the crops being at rock-bottom.

High confidence in the global market has driven prices down beyond the cost of production, meaning farmers look unlikely to make any profit from some of their wheat crops – despite a good summer helping to boost the amount of crops produced.

But Anna Massey-Fryer, who farms 500 acres of combinable crops from Sudbury Park Farm, says farmers are good at managing in a tough market.

She said: ''At the moment prices are very down and I certainly can't see anything happening in the next few months.

''Pretty much everyone must be under the cost of production and that's tough but it's not just us, everyone's suffering.

''In all aspects of farming things are tough at the moment but we find ways and means of looking at it positively and getting through.''

Other crops grown through the year on Mrs Massey-Fryer's fields, some of which run alongside the A515 between Ashbourne and Sudbury, include winter barley, oilseed rape and winter oats.

Better weather than last year has meant the crops are 25 days ahead of where they were this time last year and the harvest has got off to a good start.

She said: ''We're only a third of the way through the harvest and have so far done the winter barley which wasn't record-breaking, but it wasn't poor, either.

''The winter wheat looks promising and the winter oats look promising.''

However, a mild winter this year meant the crops kept growing while they should have been dormant, which left them open to diseases, resulting in more work for farmers in keeping their crops healthy.

The fact that more work has gone into the crops, along with the poor prices on offer, mitigates the good news of a bumper crop at harvest time.

Ashbourne's National Farmers' Union agent Paul Cook says the bumper harvest might end up being good news for livestock farmers, who have also been struggling with low prices for their animals. Some farmers across the country are choosing to turn their crops into feed which could drive down the costs of keeping animals fed in the coming months.

He said: "It will be quite interesting times for the livestock sectors, if lower pricing in the grain market starts to affect the feed costs.

"This could be good news for the livestock market, but obviously it will be a disaster for the arable market."

News Telegraph columnist and sheep farmer Richard Spencer says that, for a lot of farmers, it is not as simple as low wheat prices making for low feed costs.

He explained that beef farmers could benefit if they feed their animals with cereal crops but there are still challenges ahead in other areas of the livestock industry caused by falling milk and meat prices, which are still causing problems for farmers in the area.

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