A new report has examined the value of crop protection to consumers in the UK, and estimated that without pesticide products, food prices would rise by 40%.
With no pesticides to keep weeds, pests and diseases in check, crop yields would fall to half their current levels, leading to higher food prices, concludes the report. Annually, this increase would amount to some £70 billion in food costs.
Released last Monday alongside the Chatham House Food Security 2010 conference, the report was written by economist Sean Rickard of Cranfield University who argues that the contribution of modern crop protection products extends beyond the higher living standards and health benefits resulting from lower food prices and more efficient food production, with benefits ranging from the discovery of new knowledge through to safeguarding the quality and enjoyment of the countryside.
The report, entitled The Value of Crop Protection – An Assessment of the Full Benefits for the Food Chain and Living Standards, was commissioned by the UK Crop Protection Association to highlight the risks of failing to support innovation and investment in crop protection technology.
In developed countries such as the UK, the report warns that higher food prices would create pressures on disposable incomes with adverse inflationary impacts on the economy, while consumers would also suffer a reduction in the health benefits associated with a wide choice of affordable fresh fruit and vegetables.
In developing countries, higher food prices would threaten the pace of development and in the world’s poorest regions they would lead to increased hunger and malnutrition.
The report’s headline conclusions are that in world without pesticides:
- crop yields would fall to around half their current levels, with severe implications for employment, efficiency and profitability in farming and related food businesses;
- security of food supply would be severely reduced and the cost of food would rise by at least 40% – an increase of some £70 billion per year in the UK;
- not only would this place a burden on household budgets but this sum of money would also be withdrawn from expenditure on other sectors of the economy leading to the loss of businesses and employment;
- to offset the loss of output, arable farmers would need to double their prices and livestock producers would need to increase prices by a third to cover the higher costs of feed. These higher prices represent the net value of plant protection products to the farming industry: in the UK the net value is of the order of £12 billion;
- the supply of raw materials from UK farms to the domestic food processing and food manufacturing industry would fall and prices would rise. The industry would be forced to import a much larger proportion of its inputs and at much inflated prices, hitting the UK’s trade balance.
- as well as adding £70 billion to the nation’s annual food bill, consumers would also suffer a reduction in the health benefits associated with a wide choice of affordable fresh fruit and vegetables; this particularly affects the poorest members of society for who spend a larger proportion of their disposable income on food;
Commenting on the report’s conclusions, CPA chief executive Dominic Dyer said:
This study sends a clear message that access to the most advanced farming technologies is essential, not only to maintain the quality, consistency and affordability of our food supply, but also to keep UK agriculture competitive and to safeguard jobs, growth and wealth creation within the rest of the food chain.