In an emergency press conference, the National Farmers Union (NFU) said the government needed to step in to assist farmers who are under severe strain.
The British farming industry is facing major issues across almost all sectors, with the price of animal feed and nitrogen fertiliser, and fuel skyrocketing. The union warned that yields of crops will likely slump to record lows this year with farmers also considering reducing the size of their herds.
In the emergency press conference, NFU president Minette Batters said that “shoppers up and down the country have for decades had a guaranteed supply of high-quality affordable food produced to some of the highest animal welfare, environmental, and food safety standards in the world.”
“That food, produced with care by British farmers, is critical to our nation’s security and success. But British food is under threat,” she added.
“We have already seen the egg supply chain crippled under the pressure caused by these issues and I fear the country is sleepwalking into further food supply crises, with the future of British fruit and vegetable supplies in trouble. We need government and the wider supply chain to act now—tomorrow could well be too late.”
According to the NFU, since 2019 the price of wholesale gas has increased by 650 percent, with nitrogen fertiliser up by 240 percent and agricultural diesel up 73 percent. Furthermore, animal feed raw material has increased by 75 percent.
Nearly 1 in 10 NFU members who produce beef said they were considering reducing the size of their herd in the next 12 months.
Production of tomatoes and cucumbers is expected to fall to the lowest levels since records began in 1985. In terms of dairy, the NFU said that rising costs may force farmers to reduce cow numbers to survive in response to short-term market signals.
Some UK supermarkets are also rationing eggs, with over a third of egg farmers considering quitting the industry because they say it is no longer economically viable to farm hens.
Steve Evans, a dairy farmer based in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, told The Epoch Times by email that the issues “lie firmly at the government’s door.”
“We have warned and warned about this since the turn of the year, both Gareth Wyn Jones and myself have been on TV several times and yet our views fell on deaf ears in both the government and with the retailers,” he said.
Gareth Wyn Jones, is a sheep and cow farmer, and well-known TV presenter who lives in Ty’n Llwyfan, North Wales. Jones has also said that the country is “sleepwalking into food shortages” and has criticised how farmers around the world are being accused of being “peak polluters” in net zero measures, warning that “state-sponsored famine for billions of people is on the horizon.”
“When you have on-farm inflation hitting 30 percent plus then it was always going to happen, farmers (myself included) have cut back since the start of spring due to cash flow management decisions that had to be made,” said Evans.
“This coupled with the dry summer which came off the back of a relatively dry year last year and a dryish winter then these issues were looming large and yet the government seems to have parked the issue with the retailers and let them sort it,” he said.
“Passing the buck and now the issues lie firmly at the government’s door,” said Evans.
Last month, Batters told the committee that the UK was in “an extraordinary situation.”
“Time is not on our side to do that; there is a real level of urgency,” she said.
“Many farmers are producing food at a lower cost of production, which is unsustainable in the long term,” she added.
A government spokesperson told The Epoch Times by email that the UK “has a large and highly resilient food supply chain.”
“Our high degree of food security is built on supply from diverse sources; strong domestic production as well as imports through stable trade routes,” he said.
“The government is in regular contact with the food and farming industries to ensure they are well prepared for a range of scenarios, and we continue to take all the necessary steps to ensure people across the country have the food they need,” he added.
Andrew Opie, director of Food & Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, told The Epoch Times by email that: “Retailers are adept at managing pressures across their supply chain; they have long-standing, established relationships with farmers and know how important maintaining these are for their customers and suppliers.”
“Supermarkets source, and will continue to source, the vast majority of their food from the UK and know they need to pay a sustainable price to farmers.
“Given the pressure on British farmers at the moment, retailers are paying more for their produce. However, retailers are also facing additional costs and are working incredibly hard to limit price increases for consumers during a cost-of-living crisis where many people are struggling to afford the essentials”