Suffolk: Drought could lead to rising food prices, warns Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey

THE drought facing the country could lead to soaring food prices later in the year, a Suffolk MP has warned

Dr Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, said the dry weather could push up food prices in the supermarkets as the cost of producing animal feed was likely to rise in the wake of the hot climate.

Some farmers were even importing agricultural technology from as far afield as North Africa and Israel in order to harvest crops, she told the House of Commons.

Dr Coffey said that many rivers were already running dry, adding she “was in no doubt water is the new oil”.

She said farmers who would usually rely on taking water from rivers were already warning this might not be possible if the drought continues.

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“This will come to impact upon every single person in this country,” she said.

“One of the challenges that our farmers face is that one of the reasons for irrigation is to meet the quality standards that our supermarkets demand in terms of what they sell on their supermarket shelves.

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“Also, the price we are prepared to pay for our food. This does not just impact on the cost of a potato or the cost of an onion or other similar foods to that.

“This is going to have an impact in terms of the feed for our livestock, the lack of forage, the lack of hay, will have repercussions next winter for which we will all start to pay a heavy price.”

She added: “There is no question in my view that water is the new oil. We need to make sure we are as careful with the resource as we can be.

“We have already seen where commodities have spiked in price thanks to the demand from the Far East, particularly China, and we have paid a consequence of that.

“The fact we need to feed ourselves as best we can and not be privy to, how shall I put it, unnecessary spikes.”

Dr Coffey’s comments came as the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) warned large part of southern Britain are suffering from drought conditions in the wake of an exceptionally hot, dry April.

The CEH said last week that England and Wales had experienced the lowest March/April rainfall for decades, it had been the warmest April in records dating back 100 years and some reservoir stocks and groundwater aquifers were well below average for this time of year.

Agriculture Minister Jim Paice said ministers and experts had met to discuss the drought’s impact on the UK agricultural industry.

He said that while the situation was “serious” it was not yet as bad as the summer of 1976, the worst on record.

Mr Paice told Dr Coffey: “We don’t know what the next few weeks hold. The Met office forecast for the rest of May is not very encouraging for those who want rainfall.

“Beyond that none of us are prepared to speculate, least of all I, but I hope I have reassured you that we do take this very seriously.”

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