‘A growing crisis’: Extreme rainfall saturates farms – and may make food pricier

Months of extreme rainfall have created a “growing crisis” for British farmers.

The National Farmers’ Union says “relentless heavy rain has left vast swathes of agricultural land saturated – and in many cases still underwater”.

Constant downpours since October 2023 have rendered some fields unusable and ruined crops already planted.

Image: PA file pic

More than 20 flood warnings are currently in force too, which indicate that flooding is expected.

NFU vice president Rachel Hallos warned British farming businesses are under “immense pressure” – and said the financial situation for many of the union’s members is worrying.

She added: “It’s no exaggeration to say a crisis is building. While farmers are bearing the brunt of it now, consumers may well see the effects throughout the year as produce simply doesn’t leave the farm gate.”

Last week, new figures from the Met Office showed England was soaked by record rainfall in the 18 months to March 2024.

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Analysts from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) suggest this will mean the UK will have to import an “historically high” amount of wheat over the coming 12 months.


Germany is a crucial source for wheat coming into the UK, but has suffered extensive flooding after it also had “record levels of precipitation” between November and February.

AHDB analysts described weather conditions on the continent as a “crucial watchpoint” in the coming weeks, as further rain could ultimately push up prices here.

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A Farming Recovery Fund that offers grants of up to £25,000 to restore land affected by recent storms launched yesterday.

While the NFU had initially welcomed this news, it now fears “major issues” with the policy.

Ms Hallos said: “We are hearing from numerous members who have suffered catastrophic impacts who have been told they are not eligible for the fund because some of their affected areas are more than 150m (492ft) from ‘main’ rivers.

“These include members with 90% of their land saturated or underwater, and huge damage to buildings and equipment.”

The union says it is raising these concerns with the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs as a matter of urgency.

When the fund’s launch was announced, farming minister Mark Spencer had said: “I know how difficult this winter has been for farmers, with extreme weather such as Storm Henk having a devastating impact on both cropping and grazing, as well as damaging property and equipment.”