UFU president warns of weather difficulties

Barclay Bell, deputy president of the Ulster Farmers' Union. Picture: Cliff Donaldson
Barclay Bell, deputy president of the Ulster Farmers' Union. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

Ulster Farmers’ Union president, Barclay Bell, has warned that many farmers in Northern Ireland are facing a long winter – with all the cash flow implications that has for businesses already under pressure because of poor prices.

Speaking after meeting farmers in Tyrone, Fermanagh, North Derry and North Antrim, Mr Bell said that some had faced unexpected bad weather conditions for September, with high levels of rain making field operations impossible and forcing cattle indoors.

“In some cases cattle have already been housed for two weeks – and this is only the middle of September. While the weather may improve between now and the end of October, it is doubtful, given ground conditions, that it will be possible to get livestock out to grass again. That has big cash flow implications, since it means higher feed bills are starting early, with many farmers now looking at what could again be an eight month winter,” said Mr Bell.

The UFU president said farmers in the west were no strangers to difficult conditions, but this is a big blow given there were hopes that better prices for some commodities might ease financial pressure in the final months of 2016.

“Once again we are having to appeal to the banks to recognise that cash flow pressures remain acute. Early CAP payments will help, but when this funding hits bank accounts next month, its important banks understand that a lot of this is already ear-marked for paying bills. It cannot be used solely for paying down bank borrowings,” he said.

Mr Bell said that across Northern Ireland weather conditions were also making life difficult for arable farmers particularly in the North and North West of the province. “Long, dry spells of weather have proved elusive so far this autumn. Many arable farmers are finding themselves in a difficult position of having to deal with poor prices and often disappointing yields, while an over-supplied global cereal markets is pulling prices down further,” he added.