'Extreme urgency' required from Government over soaring costs of food production, NFU boss warns

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has called on the Government to act as “a matter of urgency” as rising gas prices hit UK agriculture.

NFU president Minette Batters told BBC Radio 4 on Friday: “We’re looking at the cost of a chicken now even 50 per cent higher than it was this time last year.

“We’ve really got to look at the gas requirements for the whole industry and ask the Government that they do that as a matter of extreme urgency, and they pull together a marketing core group effectively that will monitor this situation with industry experts so we can plan and prepare, prioritise, and then look at where we potentially would want to intervene, because otherwise we are going to see less British production.”

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Ms Batters added: “We are seeing wheat prices go to a place that they have never ever been to before. Ukraine and Russia are massive exporters of wheat – 30 per cent of global wheat is produced there.

Government intervention is required over the rising costs of food production, the NFU has suggested.

“Commodity prices are driven globally, so of course it’s going to drive massive inflation and we have to act to make sure that that everybody, consumers, can have affordable food, but most importantly that we don’t contract production.

“So, that’s it, the essential bit – food supply and food production on one in the same thing – and with 60 million people you have to take it very seriously, you have to plan ahead.”

She warned of a “very, very serious situation” as production of certain crops plummet due to rising gas prices.

Ms Batters said: "I think the impact is being felt most harshly, if you like, in the protected crop sectors, so that’s aubergines, peppers, cucumbers.

“We’re already seeing massive contraction because, for these businesses, really 50 per cent of their costs are reliant on the price of gas.”

Ms Batters said farmers have been “talking about going from 80 million cucumbers to 35 million, 100 million peppers to 15 million.

“The easiest thing with these massive costs – the only thing – is to keep these glass houses empty.

“It’s a very, very serious situation in that sector and this situation isn’t going to go away any time soon, so it’s about planning the future.”