The UK’s worst wheat harvest in about 40 years has prompted fears that prices of flour, and subsequently products such as bread, could be hiked.
Heavy rain last October meant that only 60% of what would normally be planted went into the ground. Alongside this, spring was the sunniest since 1929, substantially drier than usual, and followed the wettest February ever recorded — not ideal conditions for growing.
Recent droughts, with the longest period of temperatures above 34C since records began in 1961, followed by August downpours and thunderstorms have reduced the quality of wheat, according to the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and reports by Sky News.
Farmers are grappling with increasingly wild weather, as concerns about climate change mount.
Poor harvests spell trouble with looming Brexit negotiations too, as fears mount that World Trade Organisation tariffs will come into effect on imported grain needed to meet demand if there is a “no deal” Brexit.
The current numbers leave the UK as a net importer of grain, rather than a net exporter.
Ed Horton, a farmer in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, told Sky his crops usually yield about 2,500 tonnes of wheat but this year they are down to 580 tonnes.
Many other factors this year have meant it has been a hard year to be in the arable trade. Coronavirus lockdowns have meant a shift in consumption of milky coffees, meaning dairy farmers have suffered poor sales, while the halt in the restaurant and chip shop trade has seen plummeting demand for locally-produced vegetables. Many farms pivoted to other business ventures, such as selling veg boxes to households to hold onto their margins.
Inflation figures last week showed that UK inflation rate rose to 1% in July, as the easing of coronavirus restrictions prompted businesses across the country to reopen. The year-on-year growth in prices was up from 0.6% in June.
Food prices, meanwhile, fell by 0.3%, thanks to a decline in the cost of fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, milk, cheese, and eggs. This could be temporary, however, if fears about the production and import of wheat play out.