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Poor UK harvests because of wet weather will drive up food prices

10 October 2012
Poor UK harvests because of wet weather will drive up food prices

Food prices are set rise, following poor UK harvests as a result of recent wet weather.

Wheat yields in England were down by almost 15% on the five-year average, with productivity down to 1980s levels, said the National Farmers Union (NFU).

Food prices were already being driven up, according to the British Retail Consortium, which said they were affected by a rise in grain costs after the worst drought in 50 years in the USA and a heat wave in Russia.

Poor UK harvests also mean smaller fruit and vegetables than normal, reported the BBC.

A drought across much of England during the spring followed by record-breaking wet weather has meant a poor wheat harvest for many farmers, the NFU said. Figures suggested wheat yields were down by 14.1% - but some farmers in the wet western half of England reported even lower yields.

This summer was the second-wettest in the UK since records began, Met Office figures indicated.

"There are many farmers who are down 25% to 30% on the wheat crop," said NFU president Peter Kendall. "In some cases you looked from the outside and you thought, ‘this crop will do over four tonnes to the acre' - and it has been struggling to do three or even two tonnes to the acre.

"It has been soul-destroying for the farmers growing the crops."

Kendall indicated that the problem was not confined to arable farming. The increase in the global price of wheat - by 30% over the past 12 months - has added further pressure to farmers looking to buy grain to feed their livestock.

He said: "The challenge for the pig and poultry market is trying to make sure that retailers pay a fair price, because in pigs 50% of the cost is grain and in poultry it's 60%. At the moment, because the prices haven't responded yet, these farmers are actually saying ‘I'm not going to fill my sheds with poultry or pigs any more'."

Ian Johnson, south-west England spokesman for the NFU, described the situation as a "mixed picture" for arable farmers, pointing out that, while wheat crops had suffered, winter barley yields were up 1.6%; spring barley yields were down 7.4% and oilseed rape yields were up 5.9%.

He said that if a pattern of winter drought followed by unexpected huge amounts of rain continued, it would have to be addressed by changes in technology or farming techniques, such as planting in different ways or at different times.

By Janie Manzoori-Stamford

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