UK food prices to rise following summer deluge

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Food prices in the UK are expected to rise in the coming months, after farmers reported poor harvests due to record rainfall over the summer.

The summer months of June, July and August were the wettest recorded in the UK since 1912. The abnormally high rainfall followed a drought across parts of the country during the spring.

As a result, many farmers have seen a poor wheat harvest and the fruit and vegetables grown this year are smaller than normal.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) reported today that the persistent and occasionally torrential rain this summer has affected wheat in particular, with yield down 14.1% on the five-year average. Spring barley was down 7.4%, but higher yields were registered for winter barley (up 1.6%) and oilseed rape (up 5.9%).

The NFU’s chief combinable crops adviser Guy Gagen claimed that the wheat yield this year is below seven tonnes per hectare, a relatively low productivity level that has not been seen in the UK since the late 1980s. He also noted that the average results hide “extreme variations across the country”.

UK farmers are not the only ones who have struggled against the elements in 2012. With challenging weather events around the world this year, including drought in North America and a heatwave in Russia, global supplies are tighter and agricultural commodity prices have risen. Prices are expected to remain relatively high through to 2013.

As well as increasing the price of bread, the higher cost of grain tends to impact on a whole range of foods because it costs farmers more to feed their livestock, resulting in higher meat and dairy prices.

Richard Dodd of the British Retail Consortium said that wheat prices are up around 29% compared with a year ago, and although UK shop price inflation for food has been very stable in recent months there are price pressures in the system that will work through.

He added, however, that the UK’s fiercely competitive retail market was protecting customers from the worst effects of these price pressures.

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