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UK Sleepwalking Into Food Crisis As Fresh Produce Set To Vanish From Supermarkets

(by Tyler Durden | Zero Hedge) – The National Farmers’ Union has warned the UK is sleepwalking into a food security crisis. Soaring energy and fertilizer costs have led to an unprecedented situation where growers’ margins have collapsed, forcing many to halt growing operations.

Reuters says because of the inclement weather in the UK. Farmers grow cumbers, plant peppers, aubergines, and tomatoes in vast greenhouses. Greenhouses use natural gas for heat, but after last year’s surge in gas prices exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last month, the crops have become uneconomical to produce.

Trade body British Growers said the average cost to produce a cucumber in Britain before the energy crisis was around 25 pence, which is now more than doubled and set to hit 70 pence when higher energy prices fully kick in. 

“Gas prices being so sky-high, it’s a worrying time,” grower Tony Montalbano said.

“All the years of us working hard to get to where we are, and then one year it could just all finish,” Montalbano said.

He noted his 30,000 square meters of glasshouses at Green Acre Salads business, which supplies major supermarkets such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Morrisons, are shuttered because costs outpace market prices. In fact, the farmer would be losing money if he were to grow.

Compared with this time last year, European gas prices are up a mindboggling 500%.

Fertilizer prices have tripled since last year, along with soaring prices for packaging, diesel, freight, labor, and everything related to running a grow operation.

“We are now in an unprecedented situation where the cost increases have far outstripped a grower’s ability to do anything about them,” said Jack Ward, head of British Growers.

With many greenhouses offline, this will inevitably push down the output of produce for supermarkets and result in persistent and or even higher food inflation when overall inflation is at historic levels.

To give an idea of just how bad the situation is, the Valley Growers Association, whose members produce about 75% of Britain’s cucumber and sweet pepper crop, said 90% of farmers didn’t plant in January. Others said they would not grow with elevated gas prices.

“There’s definitely going to be a lack of British produce in the supermarkets,”association secretary Lee Stiles said. “Whether there’s a lack of produce overall depends on where and how far away the retailers are prepared to source it from.

The UK could increase imports of produce, but countries worldwide are implementing protectionism measures to keep farm goods domestically to mitigate shortages due to the Ukraine conflict disrupting the global food supply.

Like many other countries worldwide, the UK is sleepwalking into a food crisis.

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