East Anglian farmers are cutting back on irrigated crops like potatoes, onions and carrots this year, responding to the growing threat of a second summer drought. The region is one of only two in the country still officially in drought, six months after last summer's heatwave left farmers struggling. Despite some desperately-needed winter rainfall, the driest February since 1959 has left river flows, groundwater supplies and reservoir levels still worryingly low.
North Norfolk grower Tony Bambridge, who chairs the National Farmers’ Union’s regional board for East Anglia, is reducing his potato area by about 10pc, and replacing it with less risky sugar beet, for which prices have risen in recent years. He said the reduction will only be in the retail proportion of his crop, as processor customers such as McCain and Bird's Eye have worked to redress the balance between risk and reward.
Andrew Blenkiron is director of the Euston Estate near Thetford, where the area planted with irrigated potatoes, onions, carrots and parsnips has been reduced by 20pc - also replaced with sugar beet.