Pay more for farm produce, says leading farmers’ union

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Supermarkets and retail stores would soon need to pay suppliers more or British farmers would begin to go out of business, National Farmers’ Union warned today (12). 

“We have to accept these costs need to go up the supply chain if we want a farming industry for the future,” NFU’s vice president, Tom Bradshaw said.

“With climate change and political instability around the world there has never been a more important time to focus on self-sufficiency, but there’s a risk that farmers are not being taken seriously.”

National Farmers’ Union has said British farms are in an “even more precarious position” than they had been in the early days of the pandemic when close to a third of the food industry was forced to close down overnight.

The warnings came as UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng on Monday (11) reached a deal with US fertiliser firm CF Industries to fix the price of CO2, a gas that’s crucial for UK food production. Industry insiders criticised the deal to fix prices for CO2 as “opaque”.

Kwarteng has also submitted a bid to the Treasury on Monday (11) calling for emergency support for energy-intensive industries hit hard by a spike in gas and electricity prices.

Farming is not understood to be included in the package, reports said, despite the fact that it faces severe pressure on costs. 

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Some tomato and cucumber growers have already shut down production because they cannot afford to heat greenhouses while potato farmers are struggling to absorb massive increases in the cost of cold storage, the NFU said.

Apart from higher gas and electricity costs, spiked-up prices of fertiliser is also affecting the farmers.

Farmers are currently locked in “very intense” negotiations with major retailers about the need for price increases, Bradshaw said.

“Supermarkets are trying to deliver what they think is in the best interests of the consumer in terms of low prices, but there comes a point where you have to realise that these inflationary pressures are so real and so dramatic that the costs have to go up the supply chain,” he said.

“Supermarkets will be doing everything they can to try and keep a lid on prices but ultimately I think we are at a point now where we’ve got the perfect storm. Prices have to go up,” he said.

Tomato grower Phil Pearson told Independent that conditions were worse than at any time since his grandfather founded the family business in 1948.

“We have already decided that we will not be planting on 10 per cent of our land next year,” he said. “We can’t afford to heat our glasshouses and we don’t know if we will have the labour.”

His company, APS, has already been forced to throw away produce due to lack of lorry drivers to transport it, reports said.