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Which UK foods are at risk as extreme weather causes havoc with global supplies?
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Which UK foods are at risk as extreme weather causes havoc with global supplies?

From floods to droughts, extreme weather driven by human-caused global heating has become the new normal, causing havoc with the global food supply system.Many products bought and consumed in the UK are at risk of low supply and increased prices.


Wheat plants in the UK and Europe have been swamped by incessant rain. In Germany, a key source of milling grade wheat for the UK, there were record levels of precipitation from November until February. As of 1 April, 65% of French soft wheat was rated as being in good or excellent condition, down 93% compared with last season.

The UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) said: “Given that the UK has also experienced continued wet weather this season, it is likely that our requirement for imported wheat will be historically high in 2024/25.”


Farmers in the UK say they have not started sowing their vegetables yet because the ground is simply too wet. Some farmers have ceased planning for planting altogether, opting to put fields into fallow or switch to alternative crops. Clive Black from Shore Capital said: “We are increasingly concerned that perpetual rains may notably hit the UK’s arable and horticulture sectors in 2024; autumn crop yields are 20%+ down year on year with sodden fields leading to late spring plantings.”

Imports may solve some issues, but the countries the UK gets its food from are facing issues of their own. Morocco, which provided a third (32%) of the UK market’s tomatoes and 43% of its raspberries and brussels sprouts last year, is experiencing a devastating drought.


The National Farmers’ Union in England says the wet weather has also hit potato crops, with much planting not started yet because of the very wet conditions. Black said: “Manufacturers producing everything from crisps to oven ready chips will be growing in concern about security of supply.” One major retailer said the wholesale price of potatoes was up 60% year on year but retailers were only passing on half of that. They are expecting shoppers to switch to alternative carbohydrates such as rice and pasta, where inflation has eased off. Most retailers have also reduced the size of a bag of potatoes from about 2.5kg to 2kg as a way to keep prices steady.


Sodden fields means cows have not been turned out on to pasture. This means the amount of milk they produce will be reduced. The AHDB said milk production was already at a seven-year low with losses predicted to continue: “We expect to see subdued production as the wet ground delays turning out cows on to grass, with some concerns about the ability to carry out groundwork and the potential knock-on effects on grass and silage quality for the coming season.”


It is expected to be a poor year for lamb. The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) reports that the rain, combined with unseasonably low spring temperatures, is taking a toll on livestock farming, with a “bleak attrition rate for lambs born this spring already clear”.

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The AHDB added: “Supplies continue to be tight, with the latest week’s estimated slaughter back 10% against the same point in 2023.”

Olive oil

Perhaps one of the most noticeable price hikes in supermarkets is on bottles of olive oil. The product continues to be in short supply after wildfires and soaring summer temperatures in recent years wiped out olive groves in southern Europe.


There have been three years of poor cocoa harvests due to flooded crops in Africa, and a fourth expected this year. This means that the cost of cocoa has risen to record levels. Compared with the 2022/23 season, global cocoa supply is anticipated to decline by almost 11% to 4.449m tonnes this year.

Source: theguardian.com