UK’s level of food self sufficiency could be improved

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National Farmers’ Union (NFU) President Minette Batters has urged Government to put the nation’s food security at the top of the political agenda as latest figures on UK’s self-sufficiency in food have stagnated.

Yesterday (Tuesday, August 7) marked the notional day in the calendar where the British larder would run bare if we fed the nation only British food from January 1. Defra figures for 2017 show that Britain produced 60% of its own food and this rate is in long-term decline.

NFU President Minette Batters says food self-sufficiency statistics have always been an important measure of the nation’s ability to feed itself, but with Brexit just eight months away she says it shines a new light on the supply of British food.

Mrs Batters continued: “British food production has been pulled into sharp focus in recent weeks with farmers across the country wrangling with the impacts of unprecedented dry and hot weather.

“This has been a real test for Government to show the farmers and the many concerned members of the public that they think that our ability to produce food in this country is truly important.

“We strongly believe that every British citizen should be entitled to a safe, traceable and high quality supply of British food that is produced to some of the highest animal welfare and environmental standards in the world. Home-grown food production must have the unwavering support of Government if we are to achieve this post-Brexit.

“The statistics show a concerning long-term decline in the UK’s self-sufficiency in food and there is a lot of potential for this to be reversed. And while we recognise the need for importing food which can only be produced in different climates, if we maximise on the food that we can produce well in the UK then that will deliver a whole host of economic, social and environmental benefits to the country.

“The UK farming sector has the potential to be one of the most impacted sectors from a bad Brexit – a free and frictionless free trade deal with the EU and access to a reliable and competent workforce for farm businesses is critical to the future of the sector. And as we replace the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, we must keep a sharp focus on what productive, progressive and profitable farm businesses need from a domestic agricultural policy.”

A number of Northern Ireland-based food processing operations are now working on the premise that Brexit can deliver a sustained growth bonus for local agriculture. This is based on significantly enhanced orders already received from key customers seeking increased levels of food with a proven UK heritage.

This, in turn, will place further emphasis on measures such as Red Tractor and Northern Ireland’s Farm Quality Assurance Scheme for beef and lamb moving forward.