‘Climate change to blame’ for worldwide food inflation trend

Food bills are up by £605 compared with two years ago – and climate change is behind the rise.

Extreme weather led to a hike in costs, which in turn has kept food inflation high, even as energy prices decreased. Flooding here left potato, cereal and other crops rotten, and heatwaves and droughts in Spain damaged olive harvests, leading to a 50% rise in the price of olive oil. Tomatoes, rice and sugar have also been hit by the weather, with inflation rising by around 20% this spring.

Nearly half of the UK’s food is imported, so prices are likely to remain high as climate change increases in severity, experts say.

A report by researchers at the universities of Sheffield, Exeter and Bournemouth, looked at the “hidden” cause of rising bills. The University of Sheffield’s Professor Wyn Morgan said climate change was “increasingly prominent” in causing food price inflation and had emerged as a “bigger driver of inflation for food over the last two years”.

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The researchers calculated that since the start of 2022, £361 of increases are attributable to the climate crisis and £244 to oil and gas, using a 1950-80 baseline to determine the growing impact.

The Food Foundation’s Anna Taylor said we must “reduce the contribution which food systems make to global temperature rises”, create a more resilient food system able to cope with “climate instability” and support people to better cope with increases in prices.

Last week, the Prime Minister announced a virtual hub linking scientists would be launched to help develop climate-resistant crops. Some £100million will be available to countries suffering climate-related extreme weather and those hit by food insecurity.

The Government wants to use an incoming subsidy system, called Environmental Land Management schemes, which aim to support farmers by offering money to produce food that does not damage wildlife.

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