Northern Ireland must brace for food price surges due to Russia's Ukraine invasion, Poots warns

A Tesco bread aisle.
Wheat prices hit a 14-year high in the week following Russia's invasion of Ukraine (Stock photo) Credit: PA Images

More must be done to prepare for an increase in food prices and keeping supply safe in Northern Ireland, the Agriculture Minister has told his UK ministerial counterparts.

Edwin Poots' comments come after he attended an emergency meeting with Victoria Prentis, Mairi Gougeon and Lesley Griffiths - the UK, Scottish and Welsh ministers respectively.

They discussed the conflict in the Ukraine and its immediate and medium-term impacts on food supply chains.

During the meeting, the ministers spoke about the impacts of the conflict in the Ukraine on their own local agri-food industries.

Following the meeting, Mr Poots said: “Given the crucial roles that both Russia and Ukraine play in global agri-food markets, I have grave concerns the longer the conflict continues, the more likely we are to see a real and damaging impact on our local industries.

"There is no doubt raising input costs such as energy, grain and fertiliser will lead to increase in food prices and we need to prepare for that.”

Wheat prices hit a 14-year high in the week following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The warring countries produce around 14% of the world's wheat and account for almost one-third of global wheat exports.

While the UK grows most of its own wheat, consumers here still face paying more for a loaf of bread as global pressures hit home.

The price of meat, milk and other animal-derived products may also rise, according to Dr Peter Alexander, a global food security lecturer at the University of Edinburgh.

He told ITV News it could be an outcome because approximately half the UK's wheat is used in animal feed.

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots Credit: Mark Marlow/PA

Mr Poots is now urgently organising several meetings with key NI food supply stakeholders in the coming days to discuss the issues discussed at Friday's meeting as well as list industry concerns and implement suitable mitigations to keep our food supply safe for Northern Ireland.

“The NI agri-food sector has already undergone a period of severe disruption as a result of the Covid pandemic," Minister Poots said.

“Alongside reductions in labour supply, rising input costs, supply chain disruption and concerns about long running inflation they are all combining to create a perfect storm."

He added: “I will now meet with a range of stakeholders to find out the challenges they are facing and what we in Government may be able to do to help."