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10 April 2019

+ Livestock and cereals all impacted by severe weather during 2017/18

+ Scientists and environmental groups warn more severe and unpredictable weather will soon become the norm due to climate change

Extreme weather contributed to losses of up to £161m for Scotland’s farmers during 2017 and 2018, according to a new independent economic report published today (Thursday 11 April).

‘The Economic Impact of Extreme Weather on Scottish Agriculture’ by independent economic consultancy Ecosulis, commissioned by WWF Scotland, shows the severe weather had an impact on livestock and yields of key crops. [1]


These extreme events are likely to become more frequent and severe as our climate continues to change. 


The impacts include:

  • Sheep farmers suffered the biggest losses as the Beast from the East hit during lambing season. (£45m)
  • The largest impact on beef producers was the increased cost of feed, as cattle were kept inside for longer during the bad weather and grass growth was low during the dry summer. (£28m)
  • Cereal crops were also significantly impacted with total production, area grown and yields down in 2018 due to previous year due to the poor weather conditions at key points in the season. (£34m)
  • At the UK level, wholesale prices of some staples like carrots, lettuce and onions rose by up to 80%

Farmers also experienced building damage due to heavy snow and strong winds bringing down roofs and burst pipes causing disruption to water supplies.  NFU Mutual also reported an increase in fires during June and July due to the exceptionally hot dry summer.


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.”


Douglas Christie, Durie Farm in Fife said:


“I have a mixed farm in Fife and experienced first-hand lower crop yields of wheat, spring barley and spring beans as a result of the weather extremes last year.  Poor weather in spring meant I couldn’t put the cattle out to grass as early as usual and I consequently used more conserved forage and straw followed by poor grass growth in the summer until August when welcome rains arrived.  I’ve been working to build resilience in my farming system using conservation agricultural principles so that I’m better able to stave off the effects of extreme weather in future.”


Notes to Editors


[1] Impact of extreme weather on Scottish farmers 2018 report