THE Scottish Government's chief statistician had a stab at "counting chickens before they hatched" when he released the first estimates of the Scottish cereal and oilseed rape harvest yesterday. Those farmers waiting for a chance to salvage what remains of their crops after being battered by wind and heavy rain will find it incredible that office-bound statisticians expect Scotland's 2017 cereal harvest to rise 12 per cent on 2016.

Despite less favourable conditions last month, figures released yesterday estimate that Scottish farms will produce 3.1m tonnes of cereals this year, including 1.9m tonnes of barley and 1m tonnes of wheat. The total is eight per cent up on the ten-year average.

The figures show that this year's expected increase in production is due to an 11 per cent increase in overall cereal yields. The total area of land sown is also expected to have risen by one per cent on last year, with an estimated 433,000 hectares of cereals grown in 2017. Overall yields are expected to average a record high of 7.1 tonnes per hectare.

Spring barley is expected to increase 16 per cent to 1.5m tonnes, but still lower than in 2013 and 2015. The yield however is expected to be the highest recorded, at about 6.2 tonnes per hectare. Winter barley likewise saw a 13 per cent increase to 371,000 tonnes, with wheat increasing 7 per cent to 988,000 tonnes.

Oilseed rape is expected to rebound from the particularly poor 2016 figures, with yields averaging over four tonnes per hectare, resulting in production at around 140,000 tonnes, slightly less than 2014 and 2015.

A spokesman for NFU Scotland said: "Any harvest estimates must come with a significant health warning attached.

"It is clear from ongoing reports around the country that, in many areas, significant amounts of cereals have still to be harvested, acres of straw lie un-baled in sodden fields and ploughing for winter-sown crops is well behind.

"NFUS' own cereal survey showed that those crops harvested this autumn have yielded well and recovered from the yield losses seen in 2016. But for those crops still to be harvested, achieving marketable quantity and quality will be a real struggle."

Market round-up

Wallets Marts sold 1715 prime lambs in Castle Douglas on Tuesday to a top of £100 per head and 252.6p per kg to average £73.27 and 169p (+3.5p on the week).

The firm also sold 194 heavy cast ewes to £74 for Texels and an average of £46.71, while light/export ewes peaked at £68 for Hill Cheviots and levelled at £28.