The Clerk in the Country

Friday 24th September 2021

Safely gathered in

It might be supposed that once the crops have been brought in from the fields, the farmer can breathe a sigh of relief and perhaps enjoy a little holiday.  Not so!  Over the past year, time, money and hard work have gone into filling his store with grain, rapeseed or beans, but so far nothing has been received in return.  The crop has to be sold.

Ideally, of course, the farmer prefers to sell when the price is at its highest but prices for agricultural produce are volatile and difficult to predict.  Some is sold “forward”, months before harvest, when they tend to be high, but this risks a breach of contract if the crop fails to meet expectations.

A good quality high-yielding crop should surely command a better price and reward the skill and diligence of the farmer, but skill and diligence can count for nothing in extreme weather.  Nevertheless, a poor crop in a year of scarcity may earn more than a good one in a season of plenty.

And this doesn’t just apply to the local area.  Agricultural produce is traded on a world market.  The income of farmers around here is determined by factors such as widespread rain in Canada, drought in Russia or how much of last year’s rice crop is still in storage in China.  (If the Chinese run low on rice, they eat more bread.)  In contrast to the disastrous growing season in 2020, this year has been good here and, with European crops drowned, parched or burned, prices are high.  The farmer can breathe a sigh of relief and could enjoy a little holiday … if he were not so very busy planting next year’s crops!