Farmers are warning of a food crisis triggered by shortages and soaring wholesale prices – amid fears rationing could spread beyond cooking oil.
Large supermarkets are already limiting the amount of sunflower oil, which largely comes from Ukraine, that customers can buy.
And other shortages and penalizing price increases are felt in the food chain, with an inevitable ripple effect on household choices and budgets.
Farmer leaders warned Environment Secretary George Eustice of the crisis during emergency talks last week.
Tim Lang, Emeritus Professor of Food Policy at City, University of London, said: “We are talking today about rationing sunflower oil, but it could be other products soon.”
“The Ukraine crisis piles on the agony and reminds us – and the government – that we cannot assume supermarket shelves will always be full.”
Farmers warn of a food crisis triggered by shortages and soaring wholesale prices – amid fears rationing could spread beyond cooking oil (file image)
Further shortages and punitive price hikes are being felt across the food chain, which will affect shelf prices for bread, pasta, beer, chicken and sausages (stock image)
Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose and Iceland are limiting the amount of sunflower oil that can be bought and there are fears this will spread to other products and more likely see a reduced choice on the shelves.
Ukraine and Russia normally export tens of millions of tons of wheat and other grains, which are used in food production and animal feed.
Shortages and higher prices will affect shelf prices of everything from bread, pasta and beer to chicken and sausages.
Professor Lang said: ‘We are seeing destabilization of the food system and it is time for the government to get its act together.
“It shouldn’t be up to the supermarkets to decide what we can and cannot buy, the government needs to be involved.”
A shortage of whitefish is also a danger as Russia is a major supplier to Europe and the UK.
Food safety expert Professor Erik Millstone, from the University of Sussex, said the inability of supermarkets to pay farmers more to cover their rising costs risked causing shortages.
He added: “The combination of rising input prices for farmers and the determination of supermarkets to keep their prices competitive to avoid losing market share could mean that the incentives for farmers to increase production are getting worse. would evaporate.”
Growers of salads under glass in the UK and on the Continent have cut production due to soaring energy costs to provide heat.
As a result, wholesale prices for some tomatoes increased by 58% in one year. Even McDonald’s hasn’t been able to get all the tomatoes it needs, meaning some restaurants have reduced the number of slices in their burgers.
The wholesale price of butter and skimmed milk powder, which is used in processed foods, has risen 59% in one year, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Council. He says the figure for cream has increased by 58% and for mild cheddar by 45%.
Large supermarkets are already limiting the amount of sunflower oil, which largely comes from Ukraine, that customers can buy. Sainsbury’s has put up signs in its stores advising customers that certain products can most likely replace sunflower oil with rapeseed oil
Karen Betts of the Food and Drink Federation, speaking on behalf of the manufacturers, said the war and associated sanctions “will result in higher food prices”.
She added: ‘Sunflower oil is rapidly becoming unavailable, driving up the cost of alternatives. Other products, such as white fish and wood pulp used in packaging and labels, are becoming scarce as supplies from Russia and Ukraine dry up.
Farmer leaders are warning of a slump in egg and pork production as farmers give up because they cannot afford rising feed and energy costs.
At the same time, the quadrupling of the cost of fertilizer means UK farmers are using less of it, which will affect wheat yields.
In addition, there are concerns about the lack of labor to harvest the crops. Last year, some 67% of British seasonal workers came from Ukraine, which will not be repeated this year.
Minette Batters, leader of the National Farmers Union, warned: “This is the worst situation for food production since World War II.