UK risks 'sleepwalking' into food supply crisis, says National Farmers' Union

Tue 6 Dec 2022
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News

UK Food security fears

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) is warning that the UK risks “sleepwalking” into a food supply crisis unless the government supports farmers struggling with the rising cost of fuel, fertiliser and feed.

It warns that a host of staples could be affected including eggs, vegetables, milk and meat, with rationing at supermarkets considered a possibility.

Energy-intensive crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers and pears are also on track for their lowest yields since records began in 1985, The Guardian reports.

Food security

NFU president, Minette Batters, told the BBC that British food was under threat with global volatility threatening the stability of the world’s food 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,” Batters added.

The BBC reports a Defra spokesman that the government is in touch regularly with farmers and that the food and farming minister will meet with the egg industry today.

The spokesman added: “Our high degree of food security is built on supply from diverse sources; strong domestic production, as well as imports through stable trade routes.”

Fertiliser, fuel and feed up

Surging input costs linked to the war in Ukraine as well as the pandemic were to blame, the NFU said, having more than tripled the price of fertiliser since 2019, and pushed the cost of fuel and feed up by about 75%.

A six-fold increase in wholesale gas prices and increased checks for imports since Brexit were also affecting agricultural businesses, which have declined in number by about 7,000 since 2019.

The NFU urged the government to consider giving emergency support to egg producers, who will produce 320 million fewer eggs this year due to avian flu.

The Daily Mail reports that Britain has already culled almost four million birds this year and on November 7 ordered the lockdown of all kept birds in a bid to stop the spread. 

Government support needed

The NFU also said ministers should lift a cap on seasonal overseas workers to tackle labour shortages and establish a new “food security” target, which would include an obligation to monitor and report on domestic food production levels.

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said that retailers are 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.

Inflation

City AM reports grocery prices are rising at their fastest rate for 45 years with the rate of food price inflation expected to reach a peak year-on-year of 17-19% in early 2023, the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) has announced.

This is up from its previous forecast of a peak of between 14-16%.