Threat to crop yields top issue

The gains made by growers and farmers to boost food exports over the past 25 years would be reversed if Europe's new crop protection authorisation rules are approved, a study by Cranfield University's senior lecturer in business economics Sean Rickard has found.

The report, based on earlier analysis of the proposals carried out by Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) and consultancy ADAS, assessed the economic impact of the proposed pesticide restrictions - to replace Directive 91/414/EEC on crop protection substances. Rickard said that the farm-gate price of potatoes and vegetable brassicas, for example, would need to rise by more than 100 per cent under the more severe proposed crop protection restrictions in order to protect farm margins.

For the consumer, this would equate to an increase in price of £1 per kilogram - "in effect, a doubling in price".

Growers, he said, will be forced to replace banned crop protection substances with increased cultivations, increasing their dependence on fuel and, with it, their carbon footprint.

Rickard said: "Put simply, rural economic activity and employment would suffer from the overall fall in farm incomes, the nation would witness a reduction in the output from its land and a rise in its bill for imported food."

Chief executive of the Crop Protection Association (CPA) Dominic Dyer, a member of the Food Chain Group, said if approved, the proposals would "compound existing problems of food availability and price inflation, not just for the food supply chain but ultimately for consumers - particularly those on lower incomes."

He added: "We need our policy makers to conduct a full impact assessment, including the impact on crop yields and, consequently, food supply and prices."

An impact assessment carried out by the UK's PSD concluded that, at worst, the proposals could lead to 85 per cent of products taken off the market if the European Parliament's call for a hazard-based cut-off criterion is approved. At best, said PSD, some 15 per cent of substances will be lost.

ADAS revealed that a loss of just 15 per cent would result in a yield reduction in potatoes, for example, of 22 per cent - and a price increase of 25.7 per cent.

Vice-chairman of the NFU's board for horticulture Sarah Pettitt warned growers that common substances that are under threat from the proposals include:

Fungicides: Oxystrobin, boscalid, chlorothanil, metalaxyl-M, iprodione, fenpropimorph, metaconazole and tebuconazole

Insecticides: Dimethoate (one of the most widely used pesticides in the world), deltamethrin, thiacloprid, pirimicarb, pymetrozine and esfenvalerate

Herbicides: Chlorpyralid, cycloxydim, diquat, pendamethalin and linuron.

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