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    ‘Washout winter’ to push prices of beer, bread

    (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

    Analysts have warned that prices of beer, bread and biscuits may see an uptick in the coming months as the unprecedented wet weather have badly impacted the harvest of wheat, barley, oats and oilseed rape in the country.

    An analysis by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) has estimated that the amount of wheat, barley, oats and oilseed rape could drop by 4m tonnes this year, a reduction of 17.5 per cent compared with 2023. Harvests of important crops could be down by nearly a fifth this year, The Guardian reported.

    In England, there was 1,695.9mm of rainfall between October 2022 and March 2024, the wettest 18-month period since records began in 1836. This has resulted in planted crops either being flooded or damaged by the wet weather, or farmers not being able to establish crops at all.

    The ECIU analysed data from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and concluded that all wheat produced would decline by 26.5 per cent compared with 2023, while winter barley would drop by 33.1 per cent and oilseed rape would reduce by 37.6 per cent.

    Tom Lancaster, a land analyst at ECIU, said, “This washout winter is playing havoc with farmers’ fields leading to soils so waterlogged they cannot be planted or too wet for tractors to apply fertilisers.

    “This is likely to mean not only a financial hit for farmers, but higher imports as we look to plug the gap left by a shortfall in UK supply. There’s also a real risk that the price of bread, beer and biscuits could increase as the poor harvest may lead to higher costs.

    “To withstand the wetter winters that will come from climate change, farmers need more support. The government’s green farming schemes are vital to this, helping farmers to invest in their soils to allow them to recover faster from both floods and droughts.”

    Earlier this month, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) called for more help to protect farmers from flooding, saying it was undermining the country’s food production and food security.

    NFU vice-president, Rachel Hallos, said, “People should be in no doubt about the immense pressure UK farm businesses are under thanks to this unprecedented and constant rain.

    “It’s no exaggeration to say a crisis is building. While farmers are bearing the brunt of it now, consumers may well see the effects through the year as produce simply doesn’t leave the farm gate.”

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