Drought raises fear of food prices hike

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SOUTH Lincolnshire was officially classed as suffering from a drought by the Environment Agency last week – prompting fears that food prices in the shops could rocket as our growers face up to the impact of low rainfall.

Anglian Water quickly moved to assure customers that their stocks are high and that a hosepipe ban, thought to be imminent elsewhere in the country, will not be needed here.

The company says its reservoirs are 90 per cent full, but the company did urge customers to do all they can to save water.

The picture for farmers is bleak because drought restrictions mean they won’t be able to use water from rivers to grow their crops, according to the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

CLA regional director Andrew Shirley said the crackdown on extracting water from rivers will raise the risk of failed crops and cause the cost of food to rocket.

Mr Shirley said: “Recent rain may have made crops look green but it has not helped to grow grain.

“Grain crops like wheat and barley will be affected and if this carries on through the summer then we will potentially have drastically reduced crops.”

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) spokesman Simon Fisher also says yields may be down.

Mr Fisher said Lincolnshire has had between 20 to 40 per cent of normal rainfall in the past month, although that figure varies dramatically almost from village to village.

Mr Fisher said: “Whatever is growing is struggling so we are potentially looking at reduced yields.”

It’s been the driest spring right across England and Wales since 1990 – and the driest on record in south east and central southern England. Eastern England was the driest part of the country in May with less than half the expected rainfall.

Anglian Water spokesman Ciaran Nelson said: “Our reservoirs are around 90 per cent full and the underground aquifers we take water from are also looking pretty healthy for the time of year.

“These two sources account for about 95 per cent of the water we supply to our customers and their healthy condition means no hosepipe ban this year – just as it has been for the last 20 years in the Anglian Water region.”

Mr Nelson says Anglian Water is in a good position for three main reasons: the company is on top of leakage, there is a high uptake of water meters and customers use water wisely.

He said: “It’s an odd thing for a company to say, but we do actually want people to use less of the product we produce.

“But this isn’t about going without – this is about reducing wastage.”