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Experts warn 'real risk' for major food price increases due to unprecedented conditions: 'A crisis is building'

"People should be in no doubt."

"People should be in no doubt."

Photo Credit: iStock

Record-breaking wet weather in the United Kingdom has severely affected crop production, and farmers are warning of low supplies of important grains and price rises for consumers.

What's happening?

October 2022 to March 2024 has been the wettest 18-month period in the U.K. since records began, according to the Met Office, as cited by The Guardian. Some 1,695.9 millimeters of rain fell during that period, leaving fields waterlogged.

The result is a 17.5% drop in the amount of wheat, barley, oats, and oilseed rape harvested compared to 2023, representing a reduction of 4 million tons of food that is essential for the production of bread and beer, among other food and drink items. 

Low supply is likely to lead to an increased need to import, which will push up prices for supermarket shoppers. 

"This washout winter is playing havoc with farmers' fields, leading to soils so waterlogged they cannot be planted or too wet for tractors to apply fertilizers," said land analyst Tom Lancaster from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, per The Guardian.

"This is likely to mean not only a financial hit for farmers, but higher imports as we look to plug the gap left by a shortfall in U.K. supply. There's also a real risk that the price of bread, beer, and biscuits could increase, as the poor harvest may lead to higher costs. To withstand the wetter winters that will come from climate change, farmers need more support." 

Why is the low crop yield so troubling?

The U.K. is already dealing with a cost-of-living crisis, with 3.1 million emergency food parcels distributed between April 2023 and March 2024, according to food bank organization The Trussell Trust

Further increases in food prices are going to push more families toward food insecurity, and farmers are also at risk of going out of business.

"People should be in no doubt about the immense pressure U.K. farm businesses are under thanks to this unprecedented and constant rain," National Farmers Union vice-president Rachel Hallos told The Guardian

"It's no exaggeration to say a crisis is building. While farmers are bearing the brunt of it now, consumers may well see the effects through the year as produce simply doesn't leave the farm gate."

What's being done about poor crop yields?

As Lancaster observed, the U.K. Government has been providing funding for "green farming schemes," which are helping farmers to treat soil to improve the recovery process following extreme weather conditions like floods and droughts.

With global temperatures rising, these weather events are likely to become more intense and longer-lasting, which is a real concern for the U.K.'s food supply network.

That's why reducing the pollution we produce is so important to stop the rate of temperature increases. Driving less, eating more plant-based foods, and utilizing renewable sources of energy are all ways to avoid the excessive release of planet-warming gases like carbon dioxide and methane

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