Sub-zero temperatures and heavy rainfall in the first few months of the year, followed by heatwaves and drought conditions, reduced crop yields, delayed growing cycles and left pasture-land brown and parched, stopping grass from growing and forcing the dairy industry to begin using winter food stocks early.
Charlie Gallichan, of Woodside Farms in Trinity, led a group of arable growers in talks with Economic Development and the Environment Department about receiving States financial support to help the sector cover increased costs.
It followed a similar request from the Jersey Milk Marketing Board –the farmers’ co-operative that owns Jersey Dairy – made to Economic Development in August to enable them to keep the Island herd fed when they go inside over the winter, after the failure of forage crops and silage.
‘It is very early stages but we have been talking to government to find out the best plan of attack,’ Mr Gallichan said. ‘The government is listening to us and being supportive and constructive. Following the meeting, we are all trying
to quantify the situation over the next few weeks as we are uncertain about the
condition of the crops that are still in the ground.
‘We have been experiencing problems with quality and yields from the crops planted earlier in the year but until we start lifting crops over the winter and next spring, we have no idea how they are going to be affected.’
With farmers in the UK, across Europe and in larger fresh food-producing countries such as Russia and Australia facing a similar crisis, a global shortage of fresh vegetables is expected into next year.
‘Our main concern in asking for support is to protect the Island’s local food security,’ Mr Gallichan said. ‘It looks like there are going to be massive world shortages of some crops, like onions, so we should be looking to protect our own supplies. It is a fact of being an island that we should have the ability to produce a percentage of the food we need.’
It is accepted that apart from the dairy sector, which supplies all the Island’s fresh milk, it is not possible for the Island to be totally self-sufficient in fresh food production.
In 2017, Jersey’s total agricultural output for all crops and dairy sales exceeded £56 million.
States-gathered statistics estimate that 11 per cent of the £3.5 million that Islanders spend every week on food is used to buy local produce.