Consumers must pay more for food or parts of farming industry will move overseas, ‘reducing the capacity of UK agriculture to feed the country’, says NFU.
Soaring energy and labour costs threaten the UK’s food security, farmers have warned, as pressure grows on ministers to find an urgent resolution to a set of deepening crises facing British businesses and households.
The National Farmers’ Union said British farms were in an “even more precarious position” than they had been in the early days of the pandemic when close to a third of the food industry was forced to close down overnight.
“We have a very real risk now of exporting parts of our farming industry overseas and reducing the capacity of UK agriculture to feed the country,” said the NFU’s vice president, Tom Bradshaw.
The warning came as Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary submitted a bid to the Treasury calling for emergency support for energy-intensive industries.
Farming is not understood to included in the package, despite the fact that it faces severe pressure on costs. The cost of producing a pint of milk has shot up 20 per cent this year as farmers battle with a surge in energy prices and rising wages due to a shortage of workers.
Some tomato and cucumber growers have already shut down production because they cannot afford to heat greenhouses while potato farmers are struggling to absorb massive increases in the cost of cold storage, the NFU said.
Wholesale gas prices spiked to record levels last week and remain significantly above pre-pandemic levels with analysts forecasting they will not begin to return to normal for several months. Fertiliser, another major outlay for farmers, has also shot up in price as a result of higher gas and electricity costs.
The energy crisis adds to a host of problems facing British food suppliers and comes after shoppers have experienced weeks of gaps on supermarket shelves caused partly by a shortage of lorry drivers. Retailers have advised households to stock up early to avoid disappointment at Christmas.