Warnings over potential food price rises were a timely reminder of the importance of food security and an opportunity for the industry to communicate its message, farming groups have said.
A report from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) hit the national headlines this week, warning extreme weather could cost consumers an extra £45 million per week.
The CEBR added with wholesale prices of many crops already rising and meat prices likely to climb, it seemed prices could rise by 5 per cent, equivalent to a £7.15 rise per month per household.
But the industry highlighted that even with this increase, food was still affordable.
NFU deputy president Guy Smith said the recent extreme weather showed the country should ‘never take food security for granted’.
“It is a very timely reminder, with Brexit and climate change, of the danger of becoming dependent on other countries,” he said.
NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick agreed Brexit meant the UK could ‘no longer remain so reliant on imported produce’ and called for a focus on creating a food chain delivering value to the consumer while properly rewarding producers.
British Growers Association chief executive Jack Ward said volumes were significantly down on average years and costs were up substantially, with price increases critical to maintain volumes, growers and investment.
He added the costs had to be passed on somewhere.
“We are working in an industry where margins are notoriously slim. Even in a good year we are looking at a margin of 1 or 2 per cent,” he said.
He added the horticulture industry was facing particularly difficult circumstances because much of the produce was grown on contract and fresh produce had to go to market as soon as it was ready.
Mr Smith added farmers were not profiteering from any increase in price they might receive, but it would help cover costs.
Mr McCornick said the reaction from the public had highlighted the need for a greater understanding of where food comes from.
He added: “When the market is like this, retailers are able to put the squeeze on producers, with static farmgate prices not matching the increase in the marketplace and input costs still rising as well. The fact farm borrowings are up is proof of this.”