Good harvest raises profits – and lifts the spirits too
What a difference a year makes. After a disastrous 2012, when cold and rain pretty much washed out the Westcountry grain harvest and knocked the stuffing out of fruit and vegetables too, 2013 is shaping up to be, if not a 'bumper year' then very much better than even the optimists predicted.
Around 80% of the harvest is now in and despite a cold, wet start, which delayed many crops, farmers in the Westcountry are generally happy with the return. It is amazing how plants that had been virtually given up on early in the year because of the poor weather, came good after a sustained period of sunshine, and a few well-timed showers.
There are few things more satisfying in business than a better return than expected and that is what the Westcountry cereal farmers have been experiencing over the past few days. "We just hope the grain merchants will be paying us a bonus this year for quality," Mike Hambly of Callington tells the Western Morning News today. He – and many others – will be hoping to make up the difference having been docked payments last year because of generally poor crops.
The Westcountry is livestock rearing country but grain – for feed, for milling and for brewing – remains important. Cattle and sheep farmers can appreciate the good breeding in a lamb or a calf but a grainstore manager is able to see the same in quality cereals. "It's been real pleasure to see some of this grain," Devon Grain's Cullompton grainstore manager Duncan Lyon tells WMN Farming Editor Peter Hall today.
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Mr Lyon's comment perfectly illustrates how a good harvest has both economic and psychological benefits that extend even beyond those directly linked to farming. Just seeing a healthy looking crop ripening in the fields is good for the soul and one of the pleasures of appreciating a good autumn.
The anxious wait for harvest, the expectation tinged with concern, the watching of the weather and the final decision that the time is right to start the cut are emotions experienced by farmers of all kinds all over the world, from wine-makers in their vineyards to the cereal farmers on the Great Plains of North America. When it goes badly, there is deep disappointment; when it goes well the satisfaction runs through the whole rural community. Things could be a good deal worse for arable farmers. They deserve a good year. It looks as if they are getting one.
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The holidays are nearly over. The imminent return of children to school tells us the main tourist season for the Westcountry is drawing to a close. It is time for the industry to take stock. Most agree it has been an excellent season; earnings are up and visitor numbers have been strong. Let's hope there was enough of a surplus for businesses to invest in raising quality still further. That's the key to a bright 2014.