Tell us what you think - People in Norfolk and Suffolk set to be hit by rising food prices
11:31 10 October 2012
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People in Norfolk and Suffolk are likely to be hit by rising food prices after farmers reported poor harvests due to the rainy summer.
Analysis - The Norfolk Picture
By Mike Pollitt
East Anglia’s arable farmers may have reaped a better than expected cereal harvest while national average wheat yields have fallen to a 20-year low.
Cereal prices have risen sharply in the past five months as a global shortage of feed grains has seen UK wheat rise to more than £220 per tonne for milling grades. A year ago, home-grown milling wheat for bread was making £157 tonne.
Food prices are almost certain to rise across all sectors as cereals, vegetables and meat and dairy production have all fallen.
It has put the livestock sectors, especially pigs and poultry under acute pressure. A leading East Anglian producer, Jimmy Butler, who runs 2,000 outdoor sows at Blythburgh, near Southwold, warned that many producers were still losing between £15 and £20 per finished pig.
He also highlighted the likelihood of shortages of home-produced and bacon in shops by mid-summer as farmers cut numbers.
The National Farmers’ Union, which has revealed a 14.1pc fall in the average wheat yield to 6.7 tonnes per hectare (2.7 tonnes an acre), said that it was caused by a combination of the early drought and then the wettest summer for a century.
Mid-Norfolk farm manager David Jones, of Morley Agricultural Foundation, near Wymondham, said that his key wheat crop illustrated the impact of disease and weather. “Half was very good, the other half was indifferent quality,” he said. One variety did well and yielded about 10t per ha but last year’s top yielder produced just eight tonnes.
For many East Anglia farmers, winter-sown barley grown for brewers and distillers was probably the crop of the year. And it also produced record yields of superb quality straw.
For vegetable growers, the lack of sunlight and the low temperatures have also caused headaches for potatoes and other root crops. Potato prices have risen after a bumper crop last year.
“The poor UK harvest compounds a series of challenging weather events for farmers around the world, most notably drought in North America. The resulting tight supplies of many feed grains have driven up the prices of agricultural commodities around the world,” said the NFU’s Guy Gagen.
Wheat yields fell 14.1pc this year on a five-year average to levels last seen in the late 1980s, according to a survey by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).
The figures have been released after the wettest summer in England and Wales for 100 years, with 14.25in (362mm) of rain falling in June, July and August.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has already warned of price “pressures” following the worst drought in 50 years in the US and a heatwave in Russia.
Guy Gagen, NFU chief combinable crops adviser, said wheat yields were down after abnormally high rainfall across the UK since the early summer.
“The poor UK harvest compounds a series of challenging weather events for farmers around the world, most notably drought in North America,” he said.
“The resulting tight supplies of many feed grains have driven up the prices of agricultural commodities around the world.
“These UK harvest results will do little to alleviate the global dynamics of commodity prices, with the prospect of relatively high commodity levels through to 2013.
“Cereals prices impact directly on other sectors, especially pig and poultry farmers who are already struggling with higher feed costs.”
Richard Dodd, of the BRC, said: “There certainly are price pressures in the system which are coming from poor wheat harvests in this country but also in the other big wheat producing countries.
“The most recent figures are that wheat prices are up something like 29% compared with a year ago.
“Our own figures for the shop price inflation for food show that it has been very, very stable - it has been 3.1% for the last three months which is actually a two-year low. There is no food price explosion going on but there are pressures in the system that will work through.
“Our fiercely competitive retail market is protecting customers from the worst effects of these price pressures.”
Have you had any experiences of rising food prices? Tell usnusing the comments section below.
For a special report looking at what impact this will have in our region see tomorrow’s EDP.