The British Tomato Growers’ Association (BTGA) said that owing to high energy costs, many UK and European growers had opted not to plant energy-intensive winter crops. This means that there would likely be less of a supply of tomatoes before the autumn harvest is reaped.
Dr Philip Morley, a horticulturalist and technical officer of the BTGA, explained that UK tomato growers had been hard-hit by rising inflation – with input costs rising between 100 and 400 percent.
He said that the Government “does not seem to support or even understand UK growers”, adding that tomato growers have never received any handouts from the EU or UK Government.
British farmers have already spoken out to say that they are struggling to stomach the rising cost of food production without passing those costs on to consumers.
Recently released figures by the Office of National Statistics show that inflation reached 6.2 percent in February, and is expected by economists to level off over 7 percent this year.
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Increased food prices on top of an already sharp rise in other household bills promises to only put further pressure on struggling families.
The problems facing UK agriculture are perhaps more acute when it comes to tomatoes. Britons consume an estimated 500,000 tons of tomatoes every year, a fifth of which is produced at home.
Dr Morley told Express.co.uk that as well as costs, UK growers have risen to have had to grapple with “logistical issues” getting necessary supplies into the UK.
This had been compounded by rising fuel costs – which have pushed transportation costs higher – and a shortage of seasonal labor that would have previously been provided by EU workers.
He added that he felt the system was “unacceptable”, but that it was a “very difficult discussion to have publicly”.
According to the ONS, the retail price of 1kg of tomatoes in the UK has oscillated around the £2 mark for since 2010.
The price of tomatoes has only risen sharply since November, reaching £2.67 in February this year.
However, Dr Morley said that food in the UK was “still relatively cheap” and that the “real squeeze” in the cost of living crisis was coming from house prices, mortgages and rent.
He said the UK farming sector would need a “major rethink of the best and most sustainable […] way of supporting growers and returning a reasonable to re-invest in their businesses.”
Dr Morley continued: “The real squeeze on family incomes is not food, rather, completely unrealistic accommodation costs which squeeze family budgets.”
Asked what the Government could be doing to ease the situation for tomato producers, Dr Morley commented: “The Conservative Government still does not get the importance of food security in the UK.
“This is a massive issue and our many discussions with ministers and secretaries of state would suggest that there are many conversations which still need to be had.
“Even our most influential political lobbying organisation [the National Farmers’ Union] struggles to get the message over the incumbent politicians.
“Tomato growers have never received any handouts from the EU or UK Government (unlike farmers of course). Whilst we do the best for the environment as well as produce the highest quality food, Government does not seem to support or even understand UK growers. This is astonishing!”
A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “We have a number of well-funded programs to boost innovation and productivity across the horticulture sector, and we are working with the industry as we develop future support outside of the EU.
“We recognise the level of pressure that our tomato growers are facing, including rising energy and other input costs, and we are closely reviewing the horticulture market situation.”