Buyers warned food could be 'left in the fields'

11 June 2018

Hospitality and catering businesses have been warned to prepare for rising food prices this summer.

Overall, food prices are expected to be up 2% on average compared to last summer, but dairy and meat will see larger increases of 7% and 5% respectively.

The Lynx Purchasing Summer 2018 Market Forecast also warned a shortage of migrant labour in the UK farming sector could cause problems for both the availability and the price of seasonal fruit and vegetables.

Although the forecast predicted fruit and vegetable prices would stay flat, Rachel Dobson, managing director of Lynx Purchasing, warned produce could be “simply left in the fields” without sufficient migrant workers.

She said: “Our usual advice is to make the most of fresh, seasonal produce, but this summer that comes with an additional warning due to the labour issue.

“It's not simply concerns about Brexit, although that's a factor. EU workers now have a wider range of employment options and many have seen wages increase in their own countries or can travel somewhere closer to home for seasonal work.

“Without enough migrant workers, there’s a risk that produce is simply left in the fields.”

Lynx is not the first to raise concerns about the impact Brexit might have on the availability of labour. The British Growers Association, among others, has previously raised concerns about food price and availability, while the CBI has called on the government to ensure industry will still have access to the skills it needs.

Dobson added that after growers had “largely caught up” with the effects of the cold snap that hit the UK earlier this year, “it would be a shame now” if caterers had to reduce the amount of fresh produce they used because of labour shortages.

The Market Forecast, which is based on data from suppliers working with Lynx, also said caterers with menus flexible enough to serve a variety of seafoods would be able to take advantage of the seasonal UK catch, including hake, plaice and lemon sole.

Buyers should expect seasonal increases in the price of beef, as the UK enters barbecue season, and were advised where possible to move to cuts including topside and silverside to get better value. Lamb prices are also expected to increase as a weak pound continues to encourage exports.

Lynx warned buyers to expect a reduced seasonal increase in milk output, because of the cold weather earlier in the year, and butter and cream prices are forecast to continue to rise.

Wholesale vanilla extract prices are also expected to be up around 30% this year as a poor crop in Madagascar, the main global producer, has been exacerbated by unrest over attempts by the government to manage the remaining supply.

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