Farmers in the South East hit by devastating floods that destroyed crops and killed livestock may find it impossible to recover, insurers warned today.

NFU Mutual, the official insurer of the National Farmers' Union, said more than 350 claims made so far by farmers in Sussex and Kent will total at least £2 million.

The NFU itself said that for some already struggling within the industry, the long-term effects of the disaster may prove decisive.

It emerged today that many farmers elect not to insure their livestock because animals' prices have dropped and they consider cattle drowning in floods unlikely.

But as flood waters continued to recede, the scale of livestock deaths was starting to become clear today.

Dozens of carcasses have been found scattered on land hit by the deluge.

Tim Price of NFU Mutual said: "There is concern. There is no insurance for loss of land. A lot of farmers will be very worried about the loss of newly sown crops which have been flooded.

"For economic reasons, a lot of farmers do not insure livestock. It is not the premiums. There are options open to them but they see the risk of death among livestock drowning in floods as very low, particularly as livestock prices are depressed."

Sarah Acworth, spokeswoman for the NFU in the south, said: "The floods may make some farmers already in debt decide that it's time to pull out.

"It will take a long time for people to assess exactly what damage has been done. Many of these farmers have not been flooded like this before. They were staggered by how quickly it happened."