Tensions in Russia reveal threat to UK food supply, agriculture chief warns

Tensions in Russia and Ukraine have revealed a risk to the UK’s food supply, with soaring prices and post-Brexit in-fighting helping to create a “perfect storm”, a farming chief has warned.

Block on chemicals used in agricultural fertilizers more than doubled prices – PA

© PA

A blockage of chemicals used in agricultural fertilizers has more than doubled prices

– Sound system

The two contending countries supply 30% of global wheat exports, and a recent temporary blockage of chemical fertilizer exports by Russia has more than doubled prices.

Minette Batters, chair of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), said warnings about food safety in the UK had gone unheeded for years but now needed to be taken seriously by the government.

“I don’t understand why you don’t consider food security as important as defence,” she said. The Independent. “The fastest way to create a serious problem [for a country] this is if you have food shortages.

“There will be no British troops in Ukraine in the event of a conflict with Russia”, …

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Russia imposed a two-month ban on exports of ammonium nitrate this month, Ms Batters said, a key tool for boosting yields of crops such as wheat and cotton.

The move pushed up global fertilizer costs, which had already risen following sanctions against Belaruskali, Belarus’ largest potash supplier, imposed by the US, UK and others last year. last.

Belarus and Russia account for 38% of the global potash supplyaccording to figures compiled by the Canadian government.

Farmers’ profit margins have been decimated by rising fertilizer prices, in addition to higher energy bills, rising labor costs and global supply chain disruption.

Ms Batters said: “Last year I paid less than £300 a tonne for nitrogen fertiliser; this year it’s over £700 a tonne. [Russia and Ukraine] know exactly how much the world depends on them for natural gas and fertilizers.

Mrs Batters’ warning came as world Bank and other multilateral agencies have warned of rising global food prices and insecurity, with agricultural inflation rising 25% in January 2022, compared to the same month in 2021.

She said the problems have been compounded by post-Brexit trade and agricultural policy changes which threaten to put many farmers out of business: “Farming seems to be the pawn in the trade deals. So I think it’s a perfect storm.

She added that although there are “people in government who seem to understand this”, such understanding “is not coming from the Prime Minister”.

“All you hear is this rhetoric about setting aside land for nature, ‘rebuilding the beaver’; it’s a very frustrating adversarial approach between setting aside land and producing food,” Ms Batters explained. The result, she said, is that food production “just doesn’t seem to be reduced at the moment.”

The NFU’s intervention comes after Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, the Conservative Deputy Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, warned last month that new environmental land management programs at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) would ‘undermine’ a ‘critical national sector’, pushing farmers out of business.

“The recent energy price crisis should be a salutary warning of the potential risks to food availability and affordability if the UK becomes even more dependent on food imports,” said Sir Geoffrey.

The problem of food security was laid bare during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Simon Evenett, professor of economics at the University of Saint-Gall in Switzerland and author of Global Trade Alert.

Costs are also rising for consumers, with Tesco warning that prices are likely to rise at a rate of about 5 percent In the coming months.

“At the moment the consumer here is getting a better deal than anyone else in the world, unless you live in some state in the US or Singapore. We have the most affordable food in Europe right now. time,” he said.

But that’s largely because the UK has managed to remain 60% self-sufficient in food production, which is now under threat.

A Defra spokesperson said the government was currently taking a “test and trial” approach to new subsidies to the agricultural sector.

They added: “We continue to defend food production, but some land use changes are inevitable if we are to restore 300,000 hectares of land to nature. However, this is only a relatively small proportion of over 9 million hectares of farmland in England.

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