Soaring energy prices to cause production of yet another basic food to drop
A growing number of British farmers are deciding to reduce the amount of land devoted to potatoes or to abandon growing them entirely due to rising costs. This will ultimately affect consumers, with the price of spuds rising and the selection dwindling in stores.
Potatoes are typically planted in the spring to be harvested from late August to October. However, many farmers have already taken the decision to reduce the amount of land they will devote to the vegetable this year, while some have decided to abandon producing the staple entirely.
Cedric Porter, managing editor of World Potato Markets, estimates there will be a 10 per cent reduction in the land being used to grow potatoes in 2023, which could lead to a 10 per cent reduction in the harvest, the news portal inews.co.uk writes.
This comes on top of a „historically low” harvest in 2022, which Mr Porter said was caused both by farmers planting less of the crop and a summer drought.
Like most crops, the cost of producing a potato has also risen recently. Research published by the National Farmers Union (NFU) in November found
the cost of producing potatoes increased by 20 per cent between 2021 and 2022.
The main drivers of increased production costs, according to the NFU, are rising energy costs (up 165 per cent), fertiliser (up 40 per cent) and workforce costs (up 13 per cent).
Farmers are currently being sheltered from some of the impact of rising energy costs with the Government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme, but the scheme is to change in March and farmers have not been included in the list of producers to receive support.
“A lot of horticulture depends on being able to store produce in a chilled way and that does use a lot of energy,” explained Rupert Weaver, horticulture adviser at NFU. “So that’s going to be a really big concern as well. Not just the cost of making the potatoes, but storing them as well.”
Despite the rising costs associated with growing potatoes, supermarkets have been reluctant to pay higher prices for the vegetable.
“The open market price of potatoes at the moment is about the same as it was a year ago,” said Cedric Porter, adding that the era of the cheap British potato might soon be over. Mr Porter predicts we will see a 10 per cent increase in the cost of potatoes over the coming months as the supply from last year’s harvest starts to run out. Prices will likely rise even higher from October if the potato harvest is smaller than last year’s, he added.
“We will certainly see higher prices and perhaps less choice of potatoes,” Mr Porter said, adding that there could also be shortages later in the year.
As V4NA reported earlier, Egg prices have sky-rocketed in the UK. In addition to steep price hikes, the United Kingdom is facing its largest ever bout of bird flu, which is decimating poultry stocks.
This is compounding the country’s already existing egg shortages caused by rising production costs. Due to the war in Ukraine, inflation and sky-high energy prices, chicken feed and packaging costs have soared. Some producers have cut back on output, while others have decided to leave the industry.
In a bid to avoid short supplies, several supermarkets have decided to ration how many eggs shoppers can buy.