Arable farmers badly hit

A crop being harvested this summer near Timaru but yields have been poor in most parts of South Canterbury. Photo: Chris Tobin
A crop being harvested this summer near Timaru but yields have been poor in most parts of South Canterbury. Photo: Chris Tobin
Many arable farmers in South Canterbury are saying wet weather over the summer has resulted in their worst-ever harvest.

Jeremy Talbot, South Canterbury Federated Farmers arable chairman, said crop yields for wheat and barley were less than 50% of what was expected for many farmers.

''As far as peas are concerned there's only one word for it, disaster. The crops just failed. Flying over South Canterbury in December I saw 50% of paddocks were written off and what was remaining was of poor quality.''

He said wet conditions made it more difficult than what would be experienced in a drought.

''Farmers had to keep spraying and for those relying on contractors, some farmers had to stand in line and some didn't get done.

''There was a crop of wheat near Arowhenua that could have been a world record crop, with 12 to 14 tonnes per hectare. The farmer is a very good farmer but this has been his worst harvest in his whole career.

''He did under six tonnes and couldn't make a crop. That was being repeated all around South Canterbury.''

Mr Talbot said farmers had also expressed concern about the cereal seed condition used to sow this season's crops.

''One line of seed only had a 34% emergence and many more were below what should have been.''

There are around 150 arable farmers between the Waitaki and Rangitata rivers and while lowland farmers were badly affected, those in upland areas in the Hakataramea Valley and around Albury reported good yields.

''Some there said it was their best ever.''

Mr Talbot said a lot of arable farmers would struggle to make a profit and it came at a bad time.

When attending the South Island Agricultural Field Days at Kirwee in March he found many farmers felt deeply aggrieved by the government's Tax Working Group policies which have now been shelved.

''Farmers feel they are being picked on and blamed for everything.

''The average return on capital for farmers is 2 to 2.5% when making a profit. This year it will be less than 1%.

''No business in town could operate like that. The only thing that's keep farmers going is equity in their land and property.''

Mr Talbot said he was stepping down as South Canterbury Federated Farmers arable chairman but would remain involved.

-By Chris Tobin

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