Food price increases throw spotlight on need to support local producers
News reports this week warn of increasing prices for consumers in respect of virtually all farm produce as a result of the very warm, dry spell the UK has had over recent months, following on from the extreme snowfall earlier in the year.
The late cold snap meant that most farmers were “late” in being able to get on with field work, so crops were late being sown, there then followed an unusually prolonged dry spell, meaning that spring growth was very poor.
But why does this affect consumers? The immediate issue is that with little or no growth, farmers have had to supplement livestock feed, in many cases buying in additional feed from elsewhere. Farm margins are very narrow, and the increased cost of production must be shared by producers, processors, wholesalers, and eventually consumers. The lack of rainfall has also resulted in much lower yields of vegetable and cereal crops, meaning there is less of the commodity available, which, in market conditions, means prices rise.
But it isn’t just an immediate problem; cereal crops, particularly barley, are a major constituent of animal feed. Lower yields, along with a poor silage crop, will mean that the coming winter will be a testing time for farmers. Some are already disposing of breeding stock in anticipation of not being able to feed them over the coming winter, others are rationalising their whole business.
What can be done? Farmers already rely on government support mechanisms to give them a degree of flexibility to deal with fluctuating prices, but the combination of events like the UK has experienced this year are such that no farm business could continue unaffected. Consumers can however do their bit by continuing to support domestic farmers and growers by seeking out and buying locally sourced produce wherever possible, whether that is by buying “Scotch” or “produced in the UK” produce in a major supermarket chain or by buying direct from a local farm shop or farmer’s market.Back to news list