THE average UK family shopping bill could soar by £786 if plant protection products are removed from farms, according to a new study.

The cost of fresh fruit and vegetables would rise by more than £4 per week – an extra £226 per year – according to a report written by a senior agricultural economist, meaning it will be more costly to get the national recommendation of five pieces of fruit and vegetables per day.

The yearly price hike's impact on family favourites, means that the average family with two children will have to pay almost £140 more each year for cereal-based products, such as bread and breakfast cereals, and a further £60 for fresh meats. The average bill for alcohol and eating out is also projected to rise by some £92 per year.

Séan Rickard, a former chief economist for the National Farmers Union who wrote the report, found that eating healthily could become unaffordable for some families if farmers do not have access to every tool in the box to protect crops.

Plant protection products (PPPs) prevent the loss of crop yields by guarding them from more than 10,000 species of pests, 30,000 species of weeds and countless diseases. At the same time, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimated that 26-40% of crop yields are lost to weeds, pests and diseases.

Without PPPs, the FAO estimated losses could double and if farmers were denied access to these products, there would be a significant drop in global food production with a subsequent hike in food prices. Also, the quality consumers had come to expect in the crops that underpin the food system, would decline markedly.

According to the report, the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables would rise by more than £4 per week, an extra £226 per year and the average household would have to find an extra £32 per year for milk, cheese and eggs.

Mr Rickard said: “The removal of plant protection products would present a severe challenge to already hard-pressed households, exacerbate income inequalities and make healthy eating more expensive. Some of the largest increases in prices would be for vegetables and fruit."

Crop Protection Association CEO, Sarah Mukherjee, said: “The report shows that plant protection products are essential in maintaining the supply of affordable food for families across the UK. Poorer households with children spend a much higher proportion of their weekly expenditure on food, meaning that their budgets will be squeezed even further if PPPs are threatened.

"UK farmers need every tool in the box, including pesticides, if they are to provide high quality, safe, affordable food,” she argued.