Wet Weather Consequences for Food Production Still to Play Out

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If you feel like it was a dismal, wet winter, then you’re not wrong. 

According to the Met Office, this winter has been in the top 10 warmest and wettest for the UK, with stats showing that Wales was the wettest part of the UK, with a rainfall of 625.8mm, and nearly the warmest part as well, with a difference of just 0.1°c separating the mean temperatures of England and Wales.

Welsh winters are predicted to be warmer and wetter due to climate change.  Whilst this means we will be complaining about the rain for years to come, the consequences for the food industry and us as consumers are potentially much more severe.

The food industry is part of a highly interconnected “farm to fork” supply chain, so the warm and wet conditions that farmers have contended with will ripple through production, distribution, retail and finally to consumers.

With continued wet weather and flooded or waterlogged fields, farmers are the first to feel the consequences with delayed planting, ruined harvests or much reduced crop yields.  But it’s not just the sheer amount of rainfall that is causing difficulties.  The warm winter and autumn have meant that crops which require cooler temperatures and frosts for their growing cycle have also been impacted.  And future warmer, wetter winters could bring about increases in pests and diseases affecting livestock and crops.

What does this mean for the food sector and how can manufacturers adapt to climate change impacts?

Increased farm costs and reduced harvests will flow through the supply chain as rising raw materials costs.  Food producers may need to look for alternative sources of ingredients or raw materials, perhaps outside of the UK, adding to their costs through longer supply chains.

But, of course, climate change isn’t unique to us.  The World Economic Forum recently reported that between 11% and 15% of potato crops in the Netherlands and Belgium were not harvested from waterlogged fields and European potato prices soared to a 14-year high as a direct consequence of the wet weather in the UK, and other parts of Northern Europe.

Another adaptation is product reformulation to move away from inputs which may become too expensive or unreliable.   And, of course, the sustained rainfall may have implications for food production sites, with greater flood risk and access issues requiring investment in protective or defence measures.

In order to help Welsh food producers adapt to climate change, the Welsh Government has funded the development of a Climate Adaptation and Resilience training course specifically for the food manufacturing sector.

For further information about the training course, email bwyd-food@bic-innovation.com

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