July 28, 2007

UK farming faces flooding crisis

by Brian Turner

Representatives of the English farming industry have warned that it faces a crisis after extensive damage to crops and livestock by the severe flooding in June and July.

Entire crops have been wiped out, and other farms only expect to be able to harvest around 40% of normal. Additionally, the loss of hay and silage means shortages of food for livestock owners, who face having to sell all of their animals because they will not be able to feed them over the winter.

Crops which have been especially badly affected include potatoes, peas, broccoli, sprouts, cauliflower, and other field vegetables.

Dairy farmers have also had to throw away large quantities of milk due to tankers being unable to collect it due to flooded roads.

And because of extreme weather on the European continent – flooding in western Europe, and a heatwave in south-eatern Europe – means that there is likely to be difficulty in making up for crop losses via imports.

The overall results is that the National Farmers Union is warning of shortages and even empty supermarket shelves for some types of vegetables.

Additionally, there is an expectation of increased prices rises for vegetables through the year as demand outstrips supply.

Many farmers face serious financial consequences due to the flooding, not least because crops are not usually insured. Fixed contracts also means that farmers will not see any benefits to income from price increases, as they are already on agreed sales prices to distributers regardless of other factors.

The increase in food prices could additionally affect the wider economy, with food inflation rising sharply – certainly unwelcome at a time when oil prices are also hitting near record highs again.

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