Farmers are being forced to pay an ever rising red diesel price, pushing up the cost of producing food.

Running a tractor in a field now costs double what it did 12 months ago, with the price of fuel for a tractor ploughing now over £220 per day.

This week, The Scottish Farmer spoke to businesses from Yell in Shetland to Annan on the border with England, and found farmers were paying over £1.20 a litre, and some as much as £1.30/l, for red diesel.

“We cannot farm without fuel, basically they have a gun to our heads,” said Hamish Forbes from Loch Dhu farm by Nairn. “Whoever is controlling the price, be it government or fuel companies, we have no choice but to pay. It is having a massive impact."

The agricultural contractor went on to say: “We are powerless, we just have to get on and pay whatever they say. The market is so volatile. When we order fuel we are not even told the price until the day it is delivered. We are working in the unknown. If we are doing contract work, how do you price that into a job?

“Come harvest we might have to start asking the farmer to provide the fuel for the combine. We will price the job per acre without fuel, as we don’t know how much the fuel would cost on the day we turn up in the field.”

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Further south, mixed farmer Stewart Wyllie, of Newmains, Caerlaverock, in Dumfries, said: “Red diesel was well over £1.30/l at our buying group last week. How in God’s name do the government expect to curb inflation if they don’t step in do something about fuel? It would be the simplest way to help everyone in the country, if they just halved the price of fuel tomorrow rather than trying to come up with a hundred ridiculous schemes to help with the cost of living.”

The situation was not much better for Ayrshire farmer and contractor Jimmy Ireland, from Feoch Farm near Darvel. He said: “Our last order cost £1.16/l but I hear it is now over £1.20/l. This is nearly three times what it was a year ago. How do you factor in a rise like that? Farmers are having to adapt, we are getting more interest in our forage wagon which run on less fuel compared to a forage harvester.

"But to be honest, here in Ayrshire, with the weather window we have, it is often just getting the silage in by whatever means available. Ploughing and sowing take the most diesel for us. Running the one pass with grain and fertiliser uses 25 litres of fuel per hour. which is a cost of £31/hr."

Mark McCallum from St Martins farm will be harvesting 1400 acres of crop in the Black Isle this season. He is preparing for his fuel bill to rise from £10,000 last year to over £20,000.

He said: “I actually bought fuel for just over £1/litre three weeks ago but there is nothing you can do about it, it will just be going up. There could be an element of profiteering from somewhere on the supply chain but it is difficult to prove. You can moan all you want, but at the end of the day it is what it is. No point in being a moany farmer – as an industry we are good at moaning.

“But it is still a challenge, it has to be paid for somewhere. Wheat fell £12/t today, so what goes up can go down, no doubt about that. The prices are good at the moment but they need to stay there.”