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Consumers fear future as price increases slam pantry-staple grocery items: 'Crops have been left rotting'

It's not just the U.K. food supply network that has been hit hard by the changing climate.

It’s not just the U.K. food supply network that has been hit hard by the changing climate.

Photo Credit: iStock

Unrelenting wet weather battered the United Kingdom between October 2023 and March 2024. The World Weather Attribution group, cited by Sky News, detailed that it was the second-wettest such period on record for the country. 

Now, consumers are starting to feel the effects on their bank accounts. 

What's happening?

According to FarmingUK, that deluge of rainfall is pushing up prices for grocery shoppers. The publication detailed that extreme weather is responsible for a 40% food price increase, citing data from the Office for National Statistics analyzed by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit.

It's also noted that these weather conditions have been made worse by the effects of a changing climate. Warmer temperatures increase the length and severity of extreme weather conditions like flooding and drought. It's estimated the wet winter was made 20% worse because of global heating.

In real terms, the average cost of a basket of food has increased by £10 ($12.65) to £34 ($43.02) since the start of the U.K.'s cost of living crisis. 

"The basket of goods includes potatoes, rice, broccoli and coffee, and has increased from £23.73 to £33.96 in just three years," FarmingUK detailed.

As ECIU analyst Tom Lancaster told the publication, "Crops have been left rotting in flooded fields, global harvests have been hit by extreme heat and droughts, and the result is higher prices at the tills."

Why are the rising prices so concerning?

It's not just the U.K. food supply network that has been hit hard by the changing climate. Olive farmers in Spain have been contending with decreased yields that are pushing olive oil prices up. Meanwhile, cocoa farmers in Africa are dealing with drought and flooding conditions that are killing crops.

In early June, the Copernicus Climate Change Service revealed monthly global temperature records had been broken for 12 consecutive months. If this pattern continues, or if temperatures simply remain around record highs, the impact on crops could persist for years to come. 

Consumers, therefore, might continue to see costs rise. 

What can be done about crop damage?

Lancaster has called for more support for U.K. farmers to deal with the challenges of a changing climate.

"That means policies that rebuild soil health, expand hedges, and plant trees that help to trap and hold flood waters," he told FarmingUK.

But Lancaster also said that we need to reduce planet-warming pollution as soon as possible, with net-zero emissions being an essential goal.

Unfortunately, the food production sector is one of the world's leading polluters. Our World In Data has shared that it accounts for 26% of global planet-warming pollution. That's not to mention agriculture's requirement for land, damaging chemical pesticides, and vast amounts of freshwater.

But sustainable farming practices are being implemented. For example, agrivoltaics allows farmers to utilize livestock grazing areas for sustainable energy generation. These solar installations not only produce electricity, but the panels themselves provide shade that allows plants to retain water, which saves a vital resource. 

Meanwhile, a self-driving electric tractor was developed that could replace polluting machines powered by dirty fuel. 

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