Call to help farmer neighbours

Chris Allen, president of Mid Canterbury Federated Farmers, dons his wet-weather gear  to head out on his farm near 
Ashburton. Photo by Maureen Bishop
Chris Allen, president of Mid Canterbury Federated Farmers, dons his wet-weather gear to head out on his farm near Ashburton. Photo by Maureen Bishop

Mid Canterbury arable farmers have been asked to help out their neighbours struggling to beat incessant wet weather and harvest valuable small-seed crops.

Federated Farmers provincial chairman Chris Allen is urging farmers who have finished their own harvest to help their neighbours by offering a hand to bring in remaining crops on any fine day.

''Don't wait to be asked,'' Mr Allen said. ''If crops are salvageable, offer to lend a hand.

''We are not organising anything specifically but are just asking people to be good neighbours.''

With ground conditions so wet and a lack of successive rain-free days, farmers were under much pressure and the stress was beginning to tell, he said.

''Quite a reasonable area of crop is damaged.

''This will have the same impact on cropping farmers as 1m of snow during lambing would have on sheep farmers - it's very serious.

''Late-season small-seed crops like carrots and radish have been particularly affected, with significant areas still waiting for a break in the weather.

"Seed crops are a big part of the industry with export growth of 14% in 2013. New Zealand growers now provide more than 50% of the world's supply of carrot, radish and beet seeds annually.''

With no rain on Saturday and just a little on Friday and Sunday, harvesters had been busy in Mid Canterbury at the weekend.

''The moisture level in grain crops hadn't come down, though, so farmers will face an additional cost to dry it.''

Federated Farmers national grain and seed chairman Ian Mackenzie said small seeds were a valuable part of the crop rotation and a significant proportion of income for many arable farmers.

''With rain every second day, the window of opportunity is short to harvest them,'' he said.

While it was possible to dry small seeds, if crops sprouted in the paddock there would be significant losses, Mr Mackenzie said.

''We are still optimistic that most will still be salvageable.''

One farmer described this year's harvest as ''difficult all the way''.

February was difficult, March was worse and April was a disaster, he said.

Ashburton's weather station recorded 145mm of rain for the month up to mid-morning on Monday, and rain was still falling. There were just 10 days without rain up until then. The average rainfall for April is around 65mm.

April's rain followed 91.8mm in March and 61.6mm in February.

Cows did not like the wet weather any more than people did, Mr Mackenzie said, and milk flows had slowed down a month earlier than normal.

- by Maureen Bishop