UK Food Security & Price Inflation

In my last post I mentioned my concerns that the flooding of Ukrainian farmland was causing shortages and a jump in wheat prices which, in turn, was going to further inflate UK food prices.

Supermarket empty shelves

High prices and empty shop shelves may be coming soon,

Well it’s worse than I thought..

Rice Crop Hit by Heat & Drought

Asian countries that have been suffering from extreme heat in recent weeks are bracing for another challenge. Rice, a staple of the region, could be in short supply as a dry spell looms.

Al Jazeera English – June 8 2023

So problems with another staple food. The affected areas will obviously buy in stocks to replace the shortfall and this will cause an increase in rice prices globally. Irritating for us when the price rises but a disaster for the poorest people in the world who will go hungry.

Economics of Farming

Farmers don’t work as hard as they do for fun. It’s how they make their living. They may love the life but they need an income.

Wheat prices have been falling which was causing a lot of farmers to conclude growing wheat was uneconomic at a time when fertiliser prices were sky high. So they decided not to grow wheat or grow wheat already in the ground accepting low yields.

As one large scale wheat farmer points out, he can make more money for doing nothing than growing oil seed rape as a break crop thanks to government environmental subsidies. Harry’s Farm Video (zip to 8 minutes for details.)

Ammonia Pipeline Blown Up

A pipeline used to transport ammonia fertilizer from Russia via Ukraine that may be central to the future of the Black Sea grain deal has been damaged, according to both Kyiv and Moscow, potentially complicating talks around the accord.

Reuters June 7 2023

That doesn’t bode well for global food production. Russia produces about a third of global ammonia, think sulphate of ammonia fertiliser. Expensive fertiliser in short supply will reduce food production and increase costs of those food crops that are grown. And if Russia does block Ukraine’s grain exports the situation is dire.

Where is this going?

Where this is going is pretty obvious. Keep in mind that what hits the farmers today hits the crops for next year. I’ve heard talk of the basic 800gr loaf going up to £4.00 in the supermarket by the end of next year. The idea of having a range of staple foods at a low price is great but what ensures there’s enough to go around? We’ve seen unofficial rationing by supermarkets recently (3 per customer limits) but if things get really tough then we might see government rationing as we did from 1939 t0 1954

Now obviously not everyone can grow their own. We can grow most vegetables but I’d be hard pressed to grow enough wheat! It’s up to the government to take action to encourage farmers to grow food. Britain isn’t immune to food security problems and policies should keep that in view.

Here in Wales the government is encouraging tree planting as part of it’s net zero environmental polices. The sale of family farms to hedge funds who take productive farmland out of production to claim tree-planting subsidies regularly hits the headlines. What’s really crazy is that managed grazing of pasture sequesters more carbon than tree-planting. Sadly governments aren’t known for joined up thinking or having the first clue about what they’re doing. And we pay the price.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
7 comments on “UK Food Security & Price Inflation
  1. Victoria Helby says:

    This is extremely worrying but I haven’t read much about it elsewhere. How can we spread the word?

  2. Ros Griffiths says:

    A very thorough appraisal, John, but so extremely frightening. This government doesn’t seem to have a brain cell between them and tries to put out fires instead of helping prevent them in the first place.
    The UK is in a very weak position and, like you say, it will get worse and we will pay the price.

    • John Harrison says:

      Hi Ros – we’re starting with a handicap of having a population that is near treble that which we could support without inputs. Home production is, I believe, vital but they should also be looking at securing our food supplies for the future. Sadly problems that lie in the future don’t get a look in when the politicians are obsessed with what happens in Westminster.

  3. Hilary says:

    Well, well said John. It seems the government do not have the electorate’s interests at heart. The selling of farmland, pressure on farmers, forcing them out of business or into suicide (check out the rates of suicide for farmers, its’ horrendous), destruction of small farms, shops and businesses means we are being made to become dependent on the larger shops and supermarkets that are concerned with profit maybe with a little lip service to the quality of their produce. Supermarkets themselves do not give a fair price to the farmers either. We need to be aware of this, grow our own, grow within communities, support all our local farmers and growers and shops as much as possible. Thank you for bringing this up. Hilary

  4. Martin Warwicker says:

    And here in Bedfordshire the Local Plan 2040 (currently undergoing Planning Inspector scrutiny) has high quality arable farm land being allocated for housing and employment opportunities. 100 yards from my home we have 74 hectares up for a research and development park, not to mention East West Rail’s potential decimation of the countryside north of Bedford. And at the same time the field next-door has been left fallow for 3 + years as it attracts some sort of grant. Food and energy independence should be paramount. We are lions led by donkeys.

  5. Dale says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Hilary’s comments. Here in the U.S. under the current administration it’s almost identical to the comments voiced already! I have never seen so much craziness and blatancy ignoring the voices of the people who elected these officials. The POTUS is causing a detrimental global impact by his actions and has no regard for the people or regrets for his actions. We’re doing everything possible to support the small businesses and independent farmers. Wish you all the best with your situation!

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