The NFU, UK Irrigation Association and others have warned that farming must receive its fair share of water if the country experiences a drought this summer.
According to reports, after one of the driest winters in 20 years, more than four-fifths of the country’s rivers have fallen to abnormally low levels and there are growing concerns about the potential impact of dry weather on farmers and growers.
NFU Vice President Guy Smith said, “The situation is patchy with farmers, particularly in the South and East, reporting as low as 10% of their expected March and April rainfall. While decent rains in May and June will put many crops back on track, some crops like spring barley have clearly already lost their full potential. Some farmers and growers are looking at the ‘changeable’ forecast for the end of this week hoping it brings much needed rain.
“We are growing increasingly concerned about the fruit and vegetable sector, but reservoirs are full and abstracted water sources are still available, albeit at lower than normal levels. Water transfer operations for irrigation in the Stour Marsh and Romney catchment area in Kent started six weeks earlier than usual, so we are expecting early demand for water from soft fruit growers.”
Melvyn Kay, Executive Secretary of the UKIA commented that some of the press coverage appeared alarmist, but added, “UKIA will be meeting with the Environment Agency, other members of the Water for Food Group next week to be briefed on the situation.”