JUST AS the political landscape should be just about settled by the time you read this in print, these past few weeks have shown that the agricultural landscape can be changed very quickly by the dictatorship of the weather.

Rarely has end of April hill lambing weather been as cold and the longevity of that weather cycle has also meant that the spring flush of grass, that should be being mown by all kinds of bovines and ovines, is in scarce supply. Certainly, we have not seen what anyone could call a blade of grass, never mind a flush and the early silage harvesters will have to wait some days yet before the grass grows much above the level of their knives.

But while the livestock sector has been hard hit, fears are growing that the fruit and horticultural sectors could have suffered monumental damage. So much so that there is a now real danger that weather-induced losses will mean that much of our home-grown produce will not be plentiful enough to meet a home demand that will be bolstered by the fact that, unlike a normal summer when 2m people go off of these shores to enjoy a warmer sun elsewhere, the expected staycation boom will create an unusually challenged supply chain.

Anyone who has tasted the flavoursome berries that are already being churned out by the more favoured poly-tunnels in the UK will know that this home-grown delight is streets ahead of the 'turnips' produced elsewhere under even more forced methods.

So, Government will have to face some home truths this summer because not only will supply be a challenge for UK producers, those on continental Europe have also faced weather woes that have literally killed some businesses. Indeed, as reported recently, entire vineyards have been wiped out by frost.

Therefore, fruit and veg from within a vast radius of here could be in short supply, but given the weather and heavy raptor predation on sheep, there could also be a shortage of sheepmeat. Lamb and sheepmeat products are already at record commercial levels, so any further shortage would – at worst – maintain those levels. The big question will be if they prove to be unsustainably high and consumers search elsewhere.

Lamb is expensive and chicken and pork are the relatively cheap options just now, so there could be a swing back into profitability for poultry and pig producers, but then again, it will be all needed as they have been hit hard by increases in the grain prices that they feed, especially wheat.

The sad thing is, when any business is threatened by low prices, there is a temptation to cut corners and this is where the direct correlation between profitability and high welfare standards comes in to play.

On a more practical level, maybe some of the sheep boys should take a fresh look at the seemingly endless and nonsensical preference of bare breeding sheep, for both hill and lowland breeds. As these past few weeks have shown, wool might still be a worthless commodity in a bag, but it is still highly valued by the original owner!