Extreme weather hits farming sector by £161m during 2017 and 2018

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 11 April 2019 in News

Releasing the analysis, WWF Scotland warned that with climate change making extreme weather events more common, farmers are finding themselves “on the frontline of climate change”

Image credit: PA

Extreme weather contributed to losses of up to £161m for Scotland’s farmers during 2017 and 2018, according to a new study highlighting the cost of climate change.

The report, ‘The Economic Impact of Extreme Weather on Scottish Agriculture’, conducted by consultancy group Ecosulis on behalf of WWF Scotland, found that extreme weather brought by the so-called ‘Beast from the East’ cost sheep farmers £45m during lambing season.

Releasing the analysis, WWF Scotland warned that with climate change making extreme weather events more common, farmers are finding themselves “on the frontline of climate change”.

The biggest impact was on the sheep sector, followed by wheat, which saw a loss of £34m, beef, at £28m, and barley, which was hit by £26m. Overall losses were equivalent to six per cent of total output in 2017.

Ecosulis found that keeping cattle inside during bad weather hit the price of feed, costing beef producers around £28m over 2017 and 2018.

Meanwhile drops in cereal crop production, area growth and yields were down in 2018, bringing losses of around £38m.

At a UK level, wholesale prices of some staples like carrots, lettuce and onions rose by up to 80 per cent.

Dr Sheila George, Food Policy Manager at WWF Scotland, said: “Farmers are increasingly on the frontline of climate change, struggling with ever more unpredictable seasons and extreme weather. This report gives a snapshot of the huge financial toll, but behind these stats there is also a personal cost for farmers across the country. 

“This year, the mild winter has boosted crop growth but the variability is already a huge challenge –  and climate change is going to lead to more frequent, extreme and unpredictable weather events, like we saw across 2017 and 2018.

“Last year’s extremes will soon be the norm, rather than the exception and that will have huge implications for farmers and the environment. That’s why it’s so important the Scottish Government takes action now to support our agriculture sector to adapt to the challenges ahead.”

Farm insurance claims for fire damage in Scotland increased by approximately 20 per cent between 2017 and 2018.

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