Massive crop failures expected in England as farmers demand ban on garden hoses | Drought

Experts have warned of widespread crop failures in England as charities and farmers criticized water companies for hesitating to ban garden hoses despite droughts being declared across much of the country.

On Friday, the Environment Agency classified eight of England’s 14 areas as being in drought. Despite this, water companies including Anglian Water, Southern Water and South West Water have not implemented a hose ban. Thames Water said it has no plans to accelerate a snake ban expected next week.

Leaked documents seen by the Guardian at a meeting of the National Drought Group show figures on the state of agriculture in England.

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Half of the potato crop is expected to fail because it cannot be irrigated, and even crops that are usually drought tolerant, such as corn, have failed.

The group was told that “irrigation options are declining as reservoirs are rapidly depleting”, and losses of 10-50% are expected for crops such as carrots, onions, sugar beets, apples and hops. Milk production has also fallen nationwide due to a lack of food for cows, and wildfires are endangering large areas of farmland.

Farmers decide whether to harvest next year, and there are concerns that many will decide not to, with serious consequences for the 2023 harvest. Cattle and other livestock are expected to be slaughtered early at a lower weight, as it is likely that farmers will be without feed for them in the winter.

One of the driest areas is East Anglia, which is also home to much of England’s agriculture, including over two-thirds of the sugar beet crop and one-third of the potato crop.

However, Anglian Water has ruled out a ban on garden hoses for this summer, arguing that there are good water levels in reservoirs.

A spokesperson said: “Today’s statement of drought in the region that we are providing underlines the seriousness of the situation. But due to the investments we have made and the support from our customers, we still do not foresee a garden hose ban in our region this summer.”

But farmers disagree. Tom Bradshaw, the deputy chairman of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), said: “We have members who cannot extract irrigation water, but there is still no ban on garden hoses in East Anglia. We can’t believe we can’t irrigate to grow the fruits and vegetables the land needs, but there is no ban on consumer overuse.”

He suggested that the government should step in to ensure that water companies do their part to mitigate the drought. “Defra ministers must give priority to food production. Feeding people is crucial.

“The Secretary of State Steve Double was on the phone today and we made it clear to him that we need to plan for a dry winter and fill our reservoirs or else food production could be at risk next year. Irrigated vegetables are something many people will eat; if we don’t have irrigation, there is very low availability [of vegetables].”

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Stuart Singleton-White, of the Angling Trust, agreed, saying the chalk flows in East Anglia may have suffered irreparable damage from the arid conditions.

He said: “It is still not taken seriously. Take East Anglia: virtually every chalk stream except the Stiffkey is at exceptionally low levels. They have had almost no rain and do most of the farming in the country, so they need more water for irrigation. But for some reason Anglian Water has not implemented a hose ban. And the announced drought does not change that. We are in a situation where areas classified as drought do not impose a ban on garden hoses.”

He has called for a garden hose ban across the drought region: “There are still some water companies in the drought area who claim to have enough water and they don’t need to introduce a hose ban, but that just leads to confusion. customers.

“A ban on garden hoses across the drought region would send the right messages that we are all playing our part in conserving water.”

The areas with drought measures are Devon and Cornwall, Solent and South Downs, Kent and South London, Herts and North London, East Anglia, Thames, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, and the Eastern Midlands. The Environment Agency expects two more areas – Yorkshire and the West Midlands – to be in drought later in August.

However, there was one heartening news at the meeting: The National Trust told attendees that while they’ve had low river flows, drying-up ponds and wildfires, there are parts of their land that are “thriving”, with plenty of water — those where they have beavers. introduced to create dams and store water.

A Southern Water spokesperson said: “We have restrictions in place in Hampshire and Isle of Wight, and nowhere else because resources don’t require it.”

The other water companies have been approached for comment.

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