Prime minister Rishi Sunak needs to make the UK more self-sufficient and less reliant on imported food, the National Farmers Union (NFU) has warned, saying climate change and the war in Ukraine have made global food imports vulnerable.
Stating that the UK is 61 per cent self-sufficient in all foods, NFU President Minette Batters has called on the prime minister to ensure this does not drop.
Batters said the government needed to give domestic food production the same focus and political emphasis as the environment.
“Our supply chains are too vulnerable. So, the government needs to take an active interest in the UK food chain resilience,” said the NFU leader.
The trade association this week highlighted the huge risks posed to the UK’s food security from worsening threats from wildfires, extreme temperatures and drought that have caused “havoc” across many parts of the world. The threat on food security also comes from geopolitical crisis such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ongoing inflationary pressures facing the economies around the world.
“Climate change is wreaking havoc on food production across the world, with farmers in Southern Europe literally fighting fires while farmers here are despairing as they now must spend thousands of pounds to dry sodden grain. “At the same time, the conflict in Ukraine is putting pressure on the global grain market.”
According to the NFU, UK would run out of food by August if the country only had access to home-grown produce since the start of year. Baters said this highlights the need for the UK to be able produce more of its own food at home.
“It is clear that our food supply chains need to be better prepared and more resilient to dealing with global shocks and the extremes of weather that are fast becoming the norm,” said Batters. “Now is the time to build ensure policies are in place to support the production of quality, climate friendly, home-grown food. This government has statutory targets for the environment and ministers need now to give the same status to our food production.”
UK self-sufficiency reached a post-war high in 1984, when 78 per cent of produce was home grown. It has declined steadily since then.
However, the government said the UK is largely self-sufficient in wheat, most meats and eggs. More than 50 per cent of the vegetables the country eats are gown on UK farms – but only 16 per cent of fruit, BBC reported.
“In our Food Strategy last year we set a clear target to at least maintain production at current levels, and our new farming schemes invest in the foundations of food security – from healthy soil to abundant pollinators,” Farming minister Mark Spencer said.