The UK must reduce its dependence on Eastern Europe for grain crops, just as it does for oil and gas, said the farm manager of Bradford Estates.
Oliver Scott, who is responsible for managing 4,000 acres of farmland in Shropshire, warned that Britain’s farming industry had “tough challenges ahead”.
The war in Ukraine has created a “perfect storm” of wheat shortages, he said, as well as “massive increases” in the price of diesel and fertilizer.
Mr Scott warned that the ongoing conflict “starkly illustrates the fragility of food security”, with only 60% of the crops the country needs produced in the UK.
Normally, Ukraine produces around 12% of the world’s wheat. Russia is also a major wheat producer.
“These are worrying times,” Mr. Scott said, “Russia and Ukraine are among the biggest producers of wheat in the world.
“It’s fine when things are going well and imports and exports are flowing freely, but when that stops, we quickly realize how much we rely on imports to fill the 40% gap in our food security.
“It has a big bearing on the future,” he said, asking “Will we end up not exporting because we have to keep local wheat for our country’s needs?”
The industry is currently experiencing high prices, with old crop wheat selling for £301 a tonne and new crop wheat at around £250 a tonne.
“Markets are always volatile,” Mr. Scott added, “The price you are offered depends on when you call your traders.
“Just yesterday that price was fluctuating £20 a tonne and that uncertainty is not helping. »
Mr Scott said the conflict between Russia and Ukraine had dramatically increased the overhead costs of UK farmers.
“When I started at Bradford Estates I expected diesel to be around £0.65 a litre,” he explained.
“As the crisis started to unfold this rose to £0.85 a litre, however current quotes are between £1.20 and £1.50 a litre, and that’s if you can get a delivery
“In the spring, I will be using about 700-800 liters per day. I was talking to a contractor who does a lot of livestock work and will be using 2,200 liters per day.”
He said farmers also incur additional costs when it comes to fertiliser, which has risen from £275 per tonne to around £1,150 per tonne.
“Ultimately, retailers will have to pass this cost on to the consumer, but I suspect retailers don’t appreciate the potential strain on the food supply chain,” Scott said.
“We could be heading into a potential food crisis, which is likely to have a greater impact on countries in the developing world, before it does in the EU and the UK.”
He added that there was a parallel between grain crops and gas and oil. “There is a lot of talk about how we should end our dependence on Russia for gas and oil and the same for exported grain.
“We need to be able to produce more food in the UK and keep it here,” Mr Scott concluded.