SCOTLAND'S washout barbecue season has hit farmers and shops with the country's appetite for al fresco dining dampened by more rain than usual.

The country has been drenched in above-average rainfall for the last six months with the start of the summer being worst hit.

Some farmers have been unable to feed cattle in sodden fields and moved them indoors while crops have also been ruined and grocery sales struggled in the high street.

It means some bargains for consumers as prices are lowered but more pressure on producers.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) Scotland said the wet weather could have an impact on future supply with some farmers being forced to sell cattle stock early to "relieve pressure on their farms".

Farmers struggled through 137mm of rain in May against a monthly average of 46mm, and again in June with 90mm, as opposed to the 46mm average.

NFU Scotland president Allan Bowie met with farmers in a fact-finding mission in Caithness after weeks and in some places months of heavy rainfall to assess the impact it has had on their businesses.

Orkney and Shetland have been among the worst hit with heavy rain since last November and temperatures 15C lower than usual having an "extreme impact" on farmers there.

Caithness farmers have also been badly affected but farmers across the country have suffered because of this year's weather.

With cattle being sold early, one report suggested herds would lose 400,000 of their stock when it is underweight.

Mr Bowie said: "We know Caithness and the Highlands are not alone in these difficulties.

"The problems being faced as a result of the ongoing poor weather were evident in the impact it has had on farms.

"There is real concern about how many will manage during the coming."

He added: "We know the poor weather is affecting livestock but also crops too, and to those farmers this is of equal concern."

He said it is crucial that the Scottish Government ensures early payment of support funding to help maintain supplies into next year.

"We will then look to take this forward and see what contingencies can be put in place and how we can relay this to the Scottish Government and other organisations."

In the latest summer Scottish Retail Consortium and KPMG sales monitor David McCorquodale, of KPMG, said food sales had continued to decline and that "outdoor living also suffered with the cooler weather".

Richard Lochhead, Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment Secretary, said the Scottish Government is liaising with farmers' representatives "to provide any help that we can".

He said: "The wet weather is clearly having an impact on production which will hit farm incomes as well as create difficulties during the winter months.

"The Scottish Government is liaising closely with the NFUS and the SCF and we are keen to work with them to provide any help that we can.

"We will continue to monitor the effect the wet weather is having on the industry, given the potential for there to be issues going through into the winter.

"I have made it clear that the Scottish Government is working hard to be able to start making payments before the end of the year. We are continuing to work to that timescale and will provide an update in due course."