‘Now is the time to back local produce’

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The UFU has warned that if farmers and food processors had supplied only the UK market and retailers sold only British food during 2015, then supplies would have run out this week.

The Union says its figures are based on a current self-sufficiency rate of 62 per cent. Official figures also say that within 25 years the UK will be the most populous country in the EU at 77 million people. If nothing changes with food production this will leave the UK relying on food imports, with a self-sufficiency rate of just 53 per cent.

Market volatility has caused farmers major problems – and not only with dairy products. In recent weeks local producers have been caught in a perfect storm of plummeting prices and reduced global demand for staple UK produce. This has left farmers facing a grim situation, made all the worse for many by growing financial strain on their business.

UFU president Ian Marshall, is urging the public, government and retailers to support the UK farming industry. He said: “We know consumers want to see more local food on supermarket shelves. As a nation the UK needs to rise to the challenge of becoming more self-sufficient in food – and that involves consumers, processors, retailers – and crucially, consumers.”

Mr Marshall said mid-August being the point when local supplies were exhausted should be seen as a wake-up call. “This self-sufficiency gap highlights our reliance on imports, but I am convinced that sustainably increasing production is a challenge farmers can meet,” he said, adding that ensuring a future for local produce is essential if consumers want to be able to buy the UK origin food they want in coming years.

The agricultural industry adds substantial value to the UK economy through employment and management of the diverse countryside people enjoy. “There has to be a new focus to support the UK supply base, and those who provide the safe, affordable and quality food the consumer wants to see on supermarket shelves,” he said.

The UFU says it is committed to continuing to work with the UK farm unions and others to highlight the importance of supporting local food.