Last summer it was not only well publicised floods but the effects of the wet summer in broader terms that proved costly to farms in the West Midlands.
This was illustrated by the losses experienced by the Coulter Lane Fruit Farm which, according to owner Phil Hodson Walker, amounted to “30 per cent of its regular annual turnover”.
The primarily fruit and arable-based farm run by Mr Hodson Walker and his wife, Shirley, in Staffordshire, suffered due to the waterlogging of the ground which heavily affected vegetable yields and caused the rotting of fruit.
According to Mr Hodson Walker, the effects of the waterlogged ground are still being dealt with, illustrated by a “30-40 per cent loss in asparagus yields”, resulting in the sale of half the usual amount.
Although the farm managed to avoid major flooding – it is seven miles from the nearest river – the rapid nature of the rain caused minor flash floods in which the small streams could rise from depths of an inch to three feet in minutes.
Although the long term effects were less significant on fruit, generally replanted for new seasons, the rainfall did cause the rotting of fruit last year with plants and crops unable to stand, demonstrating the destructive force of the rain.
Mr Hodson Walker said the farm would have suffered greater losses were it not for polytunnels which provide cover from extreme weather. Approximately 28 acres of the 35-acre farm is covered by polytunnels but at £7,000 per acre – last year’s price – for many farmers they are not a viable option.
Despite the problems, there was no major impact on the number of workers, which can reach 20-25, employed at the Coulter Lane Fruit Farm. The impact on this year’s fruit was negligible, which means in conjunction with the current weather – which is providing ideal conditions for fruit and vegetables – Mr Hodson Walker and fellow farmers across the West Midlands could be line for a productive summer.
Worcestershire County Council has applied for £6 million in Government cash to repair damage caused by last year’s floods.
The county council is bidding for a share of Restoration Fund money, open to councils and police and fire and rescue authorities. Following the floods last summer, which caused £3 billion of damage, the Government announced an initial funding package of up to £88 million to help affected people and areas.
But when the extent of the damage became apparent, Floods Recovery Minister John Healey said total funding available would be brought up to £118 million.
Councillor Adrian Hardman, Worcestershire County Council cabinet member for finance, said: “It may have been a year since the floods devastated many parts of the county, but we are still working hard to put right the significant amount of damage that was caused.”
It is anticipated grant allocation announcements will be made by Ministers by July 22.