Rains hit harvesting as food prices rise worldwide

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Extreme weather caused food prices worldwide to rise by six per cent in the past three months, with harvest progress in the UK having been slowed by heavy rainfall.

An extensive period of drought in the United States has pushed up maize prices by almost 23 per cent in July according to the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation.

International wheat quotations also surged 19 per cent amid worsening production prospects in Russia, with untimely rains in Brazil, the world’s largest sugar exporter, having hampered sugarcane harvesting.

Increasing costs for basic crops like wheat have a knock-on affect for animal feed prices, dramatically raising overheads for farmers which are not always met by retailers.

Pig producers are already warning of an impending crisis due to the escalating cost of feeding animals, with basic feed having risen by 25 per cent in some cases.

The National Pig Association warned that many farmers will simply choose to give up producing pork and it urged consumers to buy British in a bid to persuade retailers to pay them a higher premium.

This summer has also seen widespread protests from dairy farmers, struggling with price cuts from retailers and rising costs of feeding their cows.

At home improved weather in recently has allowed farmers to get on to their land but harvesting progress remains behind the five-year average and remains at a similar level seen in 2008, when heavy summer downpours resulted in the harvest being severely delayed.

Rainfall was light in Yorkshire over the past seven days compared with other regions, with 15mm of rain recorded.

A report from environmental consultants ADAS yesterday said that harvest progress was being interrupted by regular, often heavy showers.

“They have reduced harvesting time on affected farms with some only managing to harvest for a couple of hours on two or three days.

“Early yields on winter barley and oilseed rape are close to average. Concerns remain over the impact of fusarium on yields and quality of wheat and other cereals.”

Wet conditions hamper progress for combine-harvesters which are forced to miss sections of fields that are too wet to harvest, often having to minimise damage by unloading on headlands.

In better news Yorkshire’s winter barley harvest is progressing well and nearing completion.

The news of food price increases came on the same day that David Cameron spoke of his hopes for a summit to tackle hunger.

The Prime Minister will host a meeting of world leaders gathered in London for the Olympics closing ceremony, promising to challenge them to find ways of feeding starving children.

Mr Cameron also defended the decision to spend taxpayers’ money on overseas aid despite a double-dip recession.

He said: “I wanted to do this during the Olympic Games. We are all thinking about the next gold medal, but there are millions of children around the world who are thinking, ‘Am I going to get the next meal?’ There are 170 million children who are malnourished. In some cases it results in death, but in a lot of cases it results in stunting, it means people don’t reach their full potential and have all sorts of restrictions and illnesses later on in life.”

Mr Cameron added: “I think most people recognise that when there are 170 million people around the world suffering from malnutrition, when there are millions of people living on less than a dollar a day, even at a tough time in Britain, we are right to meet our aid commitments.”

Livestock markets: Section 2, Page 17.