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Thursday, February 9, 2023

UK sleepwalking into food supply crisis, says farming union

The UK is “sleepwalking” into a food supply crisis and the government must step in to help farmers, the National Farmers Union (NFU) has warned.

Yields of tomatoes and other crops will likely slump to record lows this year, it said, with potential supply problems ahead as already seen with eggs.

Soaring fuel, fertiliser and feed costs were putting farmers under severe pressure, it added.

But the government said that the UK has “highly resilient food supply chain”.

Some supermarkets are rationing egg sales after farmers cut back or halted production because of rising costs – a situation made worse by the Avian flu outbreak.

However, the NFU warned that food producers in other areas were now facing difficulties.

It said yields of energy-intensive crops like tomatoes, cucumbers and pears were likely to hit their lowest level this year since records began in 1985.

It also said milk prices were likely to fall below the cost of production, while beef farmers were considering reducing the number of cows they breed.

Rising costs were to blame, it said, with fertiliser prices for farmers more than tripling since 2019 and the cost of feed and diesel up by 75%.

Wholesale gas prices have also jumped more than six-fold in that time, and businesses importing food items from Europe have faced extra red tape and checks because of Brexit.

“Shoppers up and down the country have for decades had a guaranteed supply of high-quality affordable food produced to some of the highest animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards in the world,” said NFU president Minette Batters.

“But British food is under threat… at a time when global volatility is threatening the stability of the world’s food production, food security and energy security.”

“I fear the country is sleepwalking into further food supply crises, with the future of British fruit and vegetable supplies in trouble,” she added.

But Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said that retailers were used to managing pressures across their supply chains.

“Supermarkets source, and will continue to source, the vast majority of their food from the UK and know they need to pay a sustainable price to farmers,” he said, although they are facing additional costs.


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