Farmers have warned the UK’s food supply could be affected by tensions in Russia and Ukraine, with soaring costs hitting firms.
Speaking to The Independent, Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), warned that the two countries supply just under one third of global wheat exports.
Farmers have faced spiralling costs after a temporary block on fertiliser chemicals exported by Russia and hiked energy prices.
Batters urged the government to take the risk to food security seriously. She told The Independent: “I cannot understand why you would not treat food security as importantly as defence. The quickest way to create a serious issue [for a country] is if you have food shortages.”
The farming sector has been hit hard this month after Russia imposed a two-month block on ammonium nitrate this month. The product helps to boost the yield from wheat and cotton.
Fertiliser costs have soared in the wake of this block, after increasing last year when Western nations imposed sanctions on Belaruskali, Belarus’s biggest potash supplier.
Batters added: “Last year I paid under £300 a tonne for nitrogen fertiliser; this year it’s over £700 a tonne. [Russia and Ukraine] know exactly how much the world is reliant on them for natural gas and fertiliser.”
“Agriculture seems to be the pawn in trade deals. So I think it is a perfect storm,” she added.
The farming chief accused the Prime Minister of having a lack of understanding towards the problems faced by the sector, although there were some in government “who seem to get this.”
“All you hear is this rhetoric around putting land aside for nature, ‘build back beaver’; this is a very frustrating adversarial approach between setting land aside and producing food.
The raft of issues surrounding food production currently “just doesn’t seem to get cut-though at the moment,” she said.