Farming specialist describes ‘heartbreaking’ financial impact of floods

The cost of this year’s floods is far greater than in previous years.
Mark Chatterton says hard working farmers have seen profits washed away before their eyes by the flooding.Mark Chatterton says hard working farmers have seen profits washed away before their eyes by the flooding.
Mark Chatterton says hard working farmers have seen profits washed away before their eyes by the flooding.

The Head of Agriculture at one of Lincolnshire’s largest accountancy and business advisers has set out the “unprecedented” impact of recent floods on farming livelihoods in the county.

Mark Chatterton, a director at Duncan & Toplis who leads the company’s team of agriculture specialists, says this year’s floods were the worst he’s seen at any time in his 24-year career, due to the scale and unfortunate timing.

Crucially, he explains that this year’s flooding is especially costly because heavy rainfall began after winter crops had already been planted.

Mark Chatterton, Director and Head of Agriculture at Duncan & Toplis, said: “We thought 2019 was bad - the worst flooding for many, many years - but this truly is unprecedented.

“In 2019, the rains started in October, when many fields were undrilled so the damage was limited. This time, the rain began after winter wheat and barley had been planted in October. As a result, the work and expense of

cultivating, drilling and carrying out pre-emergent sprays has been wasted with seed being flooded and failing to germinate.

“Fields will now need to be drilled with a spring crop, but available seed is in very short supply: costs of £800/tonne rather than £300/tonne are being quoted for spring wheat and barley, for instance. Some farmers may have

their own seed that can be dressed, but most will not have this luxury because few farms grew spring varieties in 2023.”

While some farms might remain waterlogged until April, Mark explains that they will also have to cover the cost of removing the extensive debris that will be left behind. Meanwhile, livestock will be subjected to additional

stress meaning they may not be ready for spring markets.

From November 1 through to January 5, central Nottinghamshire has seen more rain than anywhere else in the UK. In the last week, more than 100 flooded properties have been evacuated and there were more than 20 flood warnings in place along the Trent Valley last weekend. The River Trent itself reached record levels and neighbouring counties Leicestershire and Lincolnshire have also seen extensive flooding after getting a month’s rain in three days.

Each year, Duncan & Toplis surveys farms covering 20,000 acres across the East Midlands and the harvest following the floods of 2019 showed an 18 per cent drop in net profits, largely because of the flooding. This year, Mark anticipates that profits will be much worse: “All of this means that the floods this year have been far more costly for farmers than in 2019 and farms will face further costs as a direct result for years to come, likely with a poor harvest this year and poor cash flow for 2025.

“Speaking to farming families that had made all the right decisions, working day in and day out to run a profitable business only to find their profits washed away in front of their eyes is truly heartbreaking.

“My advice is to create a new cash flow forecast, work out the impact that the situation will have for the next two years, and work out ways to reduce costs throughout this period. This might mean putting off capital investments in property or carrying out non-urgent repairs and farmers should also look to draw on their private capital. Meanwhile, tax planning will be important because there will be large bills to pay on last year’s more successful harvest.

“I’d urge farmers to seek out professional advice and support immediately.”

Duncan & Toplis, which has offices in Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire, has a long history of supporting farmers, having been co-founded by a secretary of the Grantham brand of the National Farmers Union in 1925. The company has since supported farming clients through many generations of family ownership.

Today, Duncan & Toplis is one of the region’s largest independent chartered accountants and business advisers, supporting more than 12,000 businesses and individuals.

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