Spray plans threaten food prices

A joint food and farming industry group is to tackle Gordon Brown and other European leaders over proposed EU pesticide legislation and its potentially devastating impact on food prices.

A Pesticides Safety Directorate impact assessment released last week suggested the EU Parliament’s proposals would mean up to 85% of pesticides being banned after a five-year period. David Richardson of the PSD said that would render conventional commercial agriculture impossible.

And an ADAS assessment, produced for the European Crop Protection Association, has calculated that wheat yields in the UK would be reduced by 64%, potato yields by 50% and brassica vegetables by 77%, three to five years after the changes came into force.

That could mean, to maintain gross margins, wheat and potato prices would have to rise by 120% and brassica vegetable crops by more than 300%, ADAS’s James Clarke told Farmers Weekly.

Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Crop Protection Association, added that the legislation was extremely dangerous for food prices. That was why it was imperative to lobby European leaders before their meeting on 18/19 June, at which they were due to discuss rising food prices, he explained.

“We could have a situation where Europe’s leaders debate food prices and do not discuss this legislation, while a few days later their agricultural ministers could take a decision that has a massive impact.”

All parts of the food chain, from farming organisations such as the NFU and the CPA to food retail bodies, including the British Retail Consortium and the Food and Drink Federation, had to present a united voice to senior political leaders, he said. “Retailers have woken up to this. They don’t want to see higher supply costs, and therefore rising food prices.”