Significant increases in food prices are expected to take place in the near future, particularly the price of produce grown in Britain. The cost of food is expected to increase as a result of unusual weather conditions, which have caused problems for UK farmers growing common crops such as carrots, potatoes and cauliflowers.
Unusual weather patterns have been particularly significant over the past couple of month, and there were two aspects of December’s weather, in particular, that have caused problems for farmers. The final month of 2015 saw temperatures that were unseasonably warm, causing other crops to mature much earlier than intended. This could leave these groups of crops in short supply later, as the planting of successive waves of crops are usually timed to ensure a consistent supply. When the crops affected by December’s warm temperatures should have been ready for harvesting and distribution, many will have instead already matured ahead of time and and proceeded to spoil.
At the same time, December was exceptionally wet, and this led to further problems as crops were damaged or destroyed by heavy rainfall. Particularly hard-hit were crops such as carrots and parsnips. These crops remain fresh while kept in the ground, so are often grown in large quantities and then harvested for distribution in stages over time. Fields containing crops that were waiting to be harvested in this way have been damaged across much of the UK as a result of high rainfall. Wet conditions also made it difficult for people, tractors, and equipment to traverse the worst-hit fields, severely hampering efforts to salvage crops from damaged land before they became unusable.
All of this points towards a shortage of key food items in coming months, and a resulting rise in prices. Many items of produce that have survived or been salvaged are of reduced quality, and some may be deemed unacceptable for sale by retailers, worsening both shortages and the increase that this leads to in the cost of food.
Similar problems have hit farms in many countries across Europe, and have also led in some cases to additional problems. For example, unusually warm winter temperatures in Spain have not just led to similar concerns about early ripening but also resulted in an outbreak of pests and fungi, affecting key crops such as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. This could lead to further price rises in the UK, as at this time of year such crops are often imported due to difficulty involved in producing them domestically during the UK’s cold winter months.