Peppers and cucumbers at risk over Russia war as farmers face 'financial catastrophe'

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The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has written to the Government warning of the threat to UK food security and costs to farmers in the face of crippling price rises following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. According to the NFU, a crisis in confidence could lead to a minimum double-digit drop in farm production by 2023 across all sectors. Farming is being hit on a number of fronts, with soaring gas prices pushing up the cost of running farm equipment, heating glass houses and producing fertiliser. Ukraine and Russia are key exporters of grains, accounting for 30 percent of world wheat production, meaning food prices and livestock feed are also set to expand in price.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, NFU President Minette Batters warned that growers of crops such as peppers and cucumbers would begin cutting production due to the high costs of gas.

She explained: “The easiest thing with these massive costs, the only thing, is to keep these glass houses empty.”

According to Ms Batters, producers had reported the number of cucumbers expected to be grown this year falling from 80 million to 35 million while pepper production could fall from 100 million to 50 million.

Farmers may also look to try to economise on fertiliser which has been driven up in cost by rising gas prices.


Less vegetables could be produced as farmers face higher costs (Image: Getty)

Glass house

Rising energy bills are making it too expensive for producers to heat glass houses (Image: Getty)

Vikki Campbell, arable market specialist manager at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, explained that, while many growers would now be covered for this season, the question of replacement for next year would be important, when prices may potentially be much higher.

She told some growers were reporting holding back on fertiliser use this year as a result which could in turn lead to lower crop yields.

While commodities such as wheat only make up a relatively small part of product prices, around 11 percent for a loaf of bread, further sections of the supply chain such as milling are also facing higher operating costs which could further add to supermarket prices.

Bread has already been predicted to increase in price by as much as 20 percent, adding 24p to a £1.20 loaf.


Higher fertiliser costs may see farmers holding back on its use, reducing yields (Image: Getty)

Although wheat prices rising may seem good news for producers, Ms Campbell explained “the premium they’ve got… would be offset by the extra input costs”.

Shortages of grains and rising prices are also threatening other areas of farming.

According to the National Pig Association (NPA), pig farmers are facing a “financial catastrophe” due to rising grain prices.

Farmers have reported feed costs rising from £78 per pig in April last year to £101 per pig this month, with expectation of £119 per pig next month due to rising wheat costs.

NPA chair Rob Mutimer warned: “Nobody can survive with wheat at £300/tonne.


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Pig farming

Higher costs of grain threaten pig farming (Image: Getty)

“The situation is now beyond desperate and there is no light at the end of the tunnel.”

The NPA has written to retailers appealing for them to increase the price they pay for pork in order to cover the rising costs for producers.

According to the association, while pork prices in the EU have risen dramatically, pricing in the UK has failed to keep up with global events, leaving the industry “staring down the barrel of a total collapse”.

The NPA is also hoping for a financial support package from the Government which has been used elsewhere in Europe.

Harry Byrne

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