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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 March 2008, 00:03 GMT
Farmers react to food price rises
By Jeremy Cooke
Rural Affairs Editor, BBC News

Wheat
Wheat prices have tripled
As part of the BBC's cost of food day, two farmers explain how rising food prices are affecting them.

Ed Buscall is a happy man. The wheat he grows on his huge arable farm in Norfolk has become a commodity in short supply.

And that means the price of his produce is rising dramatically.

Two years ago wheat was selling for about 70 a tonne. Today that figure has soared to 188 a tonne.

Mr Buscall and other farmers across the UK are trying to supply a seemingly ever-increasing demand.

He says that, as farmers grow more wheat, they will produce less of other crops, and that means the price of those other crops will rise as well.

Global forces

"Certainly we are looking to grow 10% to 20% more wheat next year," he says.

And there's every reason to think that those high prices are here to stay. Mr Buscall knows that his corner of eastern England is open to global economic forces.

The cost of feed is going up and up and up
Neville Kemp
He says there are many factors driving the increase in wheat prices.

They include growing demand in India and China, the production of biofuels in the US at the expense of food production, and climate change which can mean crop failures.

"Certainly a drought in Australia (for instance) will have a big impact on us here.

"And I look at the predictions on climate change and suchlike for the future and I think, well the money could be there for some years to come if there continues to be bad weather events around the world as is predicted.

"The price of wheat will go up and may even go higher."

Dramatic rise

A short distance across Norfolk from Mr Buscall's arable farm, another farmer is having a very different experience.

Neville Kemp produces hundreds of Aberdeen Angus beef cattle every year.

As well as grass and hay, he also feeds grain to fatten them for market.

His costs have risen so dramatically that, he says, unless consumers pay up to 50% more for his produce he may go out of business.

Put simply, some of his stock may have to be destroyed before they are ready to be sold for beef.

"I don't know whether these calves will ever reach maturity because the cost of feed is going up and up and up.

"Grassland is being ploughed up to make way for wheat."

It all means that consumers are paying more for food. And not just food which is produced directly from wheat.

Economists are warning that we must get used to these new higher prices. The era of cheap food, they warn, is over.



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