Drought 2018 - the continuing effects

For anyone involved in agriculture, adapting to the vagaries of the weather is a constant. Yet the last year has been more challenging than most. The wet and long winter of 2017/18 was followed by a prolonged dry and warm spell last summer. 

At the aggregate level, the impacts on production were not as extreme as first anticipated. Yet the impact on farms across the country add up. For instance, last year saw the lowest potato crop since 2012, whilst tight fodder supplies have meant subsequent high levels feed usage. As ever, in British agriculture the headline figures hide the significant variability from farm-to-farm across the country. Speak to farmers about ‘their 2018’ and you will hear about a gulf in performance. Whether it was a case of light versus heavy soils or access to irrigation versus constrained water availability, yield differences were commonplace.  To state the obvious, this all affects the bottom line.

Positives from dry end to 2018

Through the final months of 2018, many have seen relatively dry conditions. This, of course, has its positives whether it was extending the grazing season or good planting conditions. However, with dry levels persisting, the sustained impact of unusual weather conditions are again a focus for our industry. Clearly, we cannot control the weather. As an industry, we’ve proved our resilience time and time again, but changes to the norm can have significant implications.

Ultimately, the weather is a factor that we cannot control but we can help to be better prepared by thinking ahead, asking ourselves the ‘what-if’ questions, or understanding the potential impacts. We might not think in terms of risk management or contingency planning, but incorporating potential responses to different scenarios into plans helps farm businesses protect assets, profitability and professional relationships when the unpredictable occurs.