A British politician said farmers “have never witnessed anything like this at any time in their living memory”, and food and drink prices will be higher than previously expected. .
and Public hearings on food security At the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Commission on Wednesday, politicians were warned by agriculture bosses that the industry faces major problems in almost every sector as prices for animal feed and nitrogen fertilizers soar. it was done.
Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), said committee members called it an “unusual situation.”
The NFU is the largest trade association for farmers in England and Wales.
“Time is not your friend”
“This is an extraordinary situation, and no matter who you speak to, of course, whoever I speak to, they say they have never witnessed anything like this in their living memory. I think it’s unique,” she said.
Many sectors are facing the effects of inflation, pressure from the Ukrainian-Russian conflict and gas market volatility, pushing up costs.
When it comes to self-sufficiency, she said England and Wales have “great opportunities”, but if the UK “scales back”.[s] Our self-sufficiency rate has remained largely unchanged over the past 20 years, at around 60%. I think this would be a huge loss, especially for this country facing the global challenges we face. legal framework. ”
“Time to do it is not on our side. There is a real level of urgency,” she added.
“Many farmers produce food at lower production costs, which is unsustainable in the long run,” she said.
Batters added that there is a danger that “the cost of consumer inflation will also rise” because the crisis is global.
According to the latest data from research firm Kantar, four-week inflation in grocery prices reached 14.7%, the highest since the company began recording data in 2008.
“Since records began in 1985, we’ve seen significant contractions in the protected crop sector, tomatoes and cucumbers, at their lowest levels,” Batters said.
“Vegetables in the fields are also experiencing massive shrinkage there, many of which are driven by access to labor. There will be an impact there,” she added.
“Obviously, milk production has also decreased.
There is the issue of affordability for the end consumer, she added, but “the shorter the supply, the more likely it is to drive food inflation.”
James Walton, chief economist at the Institute of Grocery Distribution, which provides grocery insights, said he expects food price inflation to peak at 17-19% year-on-year in early 2023, according to the Commission. told to
He called this “a rather difficult prospect.”
“Farmers produce less in the UK”
Labor MP Geraint Davis pointed out that Russia and Ukraine are responsible for “30% of the world’s wheat exports”.
“My understanding is that Russia has lowered the price of gas and fuel for farmers and others, enabled food production in the south of Russia, and basically fed the people in the north of Russia, so suddenly, These relocation costs have become more affordable domestically, which will re-stimulate the overall volume of food production in Russia,” he said.
“At the same time, farmers are reducing production in the UK due to the impact of what they are doing in Ukraine on energy prices,” he added.
The batter responded by saying that this should be something that fits in the “wider security piece”.
“When talking to our opposition numbers in Ukraine, they are confronted with the fact that more than 40% of their acreage is not planted,” she said.
“They were specifically told by the Ukrainian government that they should, in fact, focus on feeding their own people and growing something that meets their country’s food security challenges, rather than exporting.” she said.
PA Media contributed to this report.