Suffolk/Essex: Farmers play down fears of high food prices despite harsh weather

Richard Scott NFU chairman for Suffolk

Richard Scott NFU chairman for Suffolk - Credit: Archant

FARMERS in Suffolk and north Essex have played down fears of soaring food prices, despite describing the huge difficulties they have faced because of the extreme weather conditions.

East Anglia’s producers have had to contend with a drought, a wet summer with heavy rain and flooding, as well as a harsh winter in the past year.

It has led to concerns nationwide of hard-pressed consumers facing a big rise in food prices, but farming chiefs insisted that, while times were tough, consumers should not be concerned just yet.

Richard Scott, chairman of the Suffolk branch of the National Farmers Union, said crops were two to three weeks behind where they should be.

He said: “What happens in northern Europe and the USA will have a far bigger influence on where the food prices level will be.

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“The weather situation in the UK has been a very difficult one and it’s not over yet.

“What we really want is some warm weather to get the crops growing. We had a bad start in the autumn, the temperatures are very cold and the longer it goes on the harder it is for the crops to come through.

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“We have a situation where UK farmers’ crops are capped because of the conditions but if global wheat yields are up, then we can see lower prices in the UK and for UK farmers.

“There’s been a huge concern from farmers after the difficult autumn and we really wanted an early spring but that is exactly what we did not get. Soil temperatures for April are very low – we are lucky to get three degrees but it is likely to change as we go through the month.”

The challenging weather has affected planting, crops already in the ground and arable farming.

An NFU spokesman said: “With wet weather persisting into 2013, this has hampered spring planting in many parts of the country.

“It is questionable to what extent we will see spring plantings even reach ‘normal’ levels, let alone make up some of the shortfall we see in sowing last autumn/winter.

“Currently, many horticulture producers will be facing the same challenges as arable farmers, namely wet and cold soils.

“Seed beds are far from ideal, with wet land limiting field operations, and the crops that are in the ground are struggling to grow.

“Whether it’s peas or potatoes, a warm, drier spell is needed to allow planting progress to catch up.”

Brian Finnerty, spokesman for NFU East Anglia, said the region’s farmers needed better weather

He added: “Farmers have had to deal with very low temperatures while crops are in the ground.

“Like everybody else, we are hoping to see temperatures start to rise and some warmer conditions appear.”

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