Source: Getty Images

Rapeseed oil is widely used not just for domestic consumption but also by restaurants such as fish & chip shops

Vegetable oil prices could rise this year as UK production of oilseed rape has taken a hit due to extreme flooding, experts have warned.

UK yields of rapeseed oil, which is widely used not just for domestic consumption but also by restaurants such as fish & chip shops and catering companies, are expected to be as much as 38% lower this year compared with 2023.

This was after a wetter-than-usual winter and early spring affected crops, the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said.

The reduction in average production could be as much as 54% compared with 2015, data showed.

Oilseed rape production had already fallen by around 14% to 1.0 million tonnes in 2023, according to government figures.

The drop in rapeseed oil output also comes amid record high prices for olive oil – recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the average price of olive oil is still rising and is now £8.04 a bottle, up 39% from £5.78 at the same time last year.

Olive oil markets have been under pressure for the past couple of years as hot temperatures and drought-like conditions have heavily harmed production across the Mediterranean.

This adds further pressure to other vegetable oils as consumers, manufacturers and hospitality businesses switch to cheaper options.

“We’re seeing a double whammy on cooking oil,” said Tom Lancaster, land analyst at ECIU. 

“Be it Spanish olive oil or British vegetable oil, climate extremes are hurting crops and consumers are paying for it at the supermarket checkout.”

The “failure of the British rapeseed oil harvest could see a hike in vegetable oil prices”, Lancaster added.

Climate change has already added £361 to food bills in the past couple of years, previous ECIU data showed.

“These kinds of extremes, both in the UK and abroad, will only worsen until we reach net zero emissions, making it essential to protect our food security,” Lancaster said.

“But farmers both here in the UK and abroad are going to need our help.”

He added: “British farmers will need short-term support this year to cope with flooding and crop failures, but also longer-term support such as the government’s environmental land management scheme to help them improve soil health and protect land from flooding with more hedgerows and trees.”