Page last updated at 03:47 GMT, Thursday, 11 September 2008 04:47 UK

Wet harvest may raise food prices

Combine harvester
Combine harvesters have been damaged in waterlogged fields

Food prices could rise further because exceptionally wet weather has led to delays in the harvest, industry experts have told the BBC.

Farmers say they are behind on gathering in crops and are using large amounts of fuel to dry them out so they can be stored.

But others say worldwide supplies are plentiful enough to keep prices stable.

Food prices in UK shops have risen by 8.3% since January, an index compiled for the BBC said last week.

Farmers say this growing season started well but torrential rain means harvesting has been delayed, and in some areas only a tiny percentage of crops have been gathered.

Planting disrupted

BBC environment correspondent Sarah Mukherjee said farmers across Britain are reporting damage to combine harvesters as they try to cut crops in waterlogged fields.

Map shows August rainfall was above average in most of the UK.

Water can be wrung out of grain by hand as it is so wet, and thousands of pounds is being spent on fuel to dry sodden crops. Some say next year's planting has already been disrupted.

Some in the industry fear that this will inevitably mean higher prices in the shops.

But others maintain that if the weather turns, the quantity and quality of the harvest could still be good.

The food price index produced for the BBC last week showed meat and fish up 22.9% with fresh fruit and vegetables up 14.7%.

Retail analysts Verdict Research also found price rises of nearly 50% for some individual food items.

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