UK crop yields under threat

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, Agriculture, Eu

UK crop yields under threat
EU pesticide proposals could affect feed prices and impact meat and dairy industry

EU proposals to restrict pesticide use could devastate the UK meat and dairy industry, warns a report from Cranfield University School of Management.

Even the best-case scenario (the proposal as originally drafted by the European Commission) could cut yields of most arable crops by 20-30%, which would fundamentally affect feed prices, according to the report's author Séan Rickard.

In the worst case scenario, which takes into account proposed amendments drafted by the European Parliament, up to 85% of agricultural pesticides could be banned. That would lead to devastating reductions in crop yields and rocketing food prices, claimed Rickard.

"The higher feed costs would force many farmers out of business. The overall effect would be higher food prices and a contraction in the size of the agricultural industry."

Ironically, while the proposals have been driven by the environmental lobby, they would also cause imports to rise sharply (using more food miles). Furthermore, they would increase pressure on UK farmers to "engage in increased ploughing, involving higher fuel and machinery costs", upping their carbon footprint, claimed Rickard.

"All other factors remaining equal, the reduction in yields would make a large proportion of the EU's arable farms unviable, resulting in the loss of livelihood for many farmers and further job losses throughout the food chain."

In practical terms, the reduction in yields could double the price of potatoes. It could also push the price of a loaf up by 9p, a litre of milk up by 3p, and a kilo of pork up by 40p, Rickard predicted.

The report was published as UK food and farming trade associations wrote to prime minister Gordon Brown urging him to raise their concerns about the pesticides proposals with his Continental European counterparts.

The letter has been written by the Crop Protection Association (CPA). It has been signed by a series of trade bodies including the Food and Drink Federation, the British Retail Consortium and the National Farmers' Union, said CPA chief executive Dominic Dyer. "The message is simple: we have to have a proper EU-wide economic impact assessment done before this proposal goes any further."