Anxious growers warn of food price spike

Falling cereal yields and a potential shortage of people to pick fruits and vegetables could reduce availability and push up the price of key ingredients for foodservice operators.

The results of this year’s NFU harvest survey showed a significant drop in yield across all major crops as an extended period of extreme and volatile weather, including severe flooding and prolonged heatwaves, impacted production.

Wheat yields and winter barley yields were down 18% from 2019, spring barley yields were down 6% and oilseed rape yields were down 15%.

As a result, the NFU said many farmers are experiencing cash flow problems.

The horticulture sector, meanwhile, is warning that a lack of workers for the 2021 harvest could see UK fruit and vegetable production plummet.

The Grocer reported that some soft fruits growers have already decided to cut back on planting area and production owing to the uncertainty around post-Brexit access to non-UK labour.

Migrants account for the vast majority of seasonal horticultural workers in the UK. However, with EU freedom of movement ending on 31 December and the government yet to commit to an extension of a pilot seasonal agricultural workers scheme, bodies representing growers said confidence in planting crops is low.

British Summer Fruits CEO Nick Marston told The Grocer that the government must upgrade the pilot scheme or face “empty shelves and massive inflation in retail prices” next year.

The NFU, meanwhile, is calling for “short, medium and long term measures to help growers build resilience, both financially and when it comes to mitigating the impacts of extreme weather on their crops”.

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