‘Water for Food’ featured prominently at a Defra event in Peterborough this week where farmers, food processors and local government representatives added a regional flavour to Defra’s draft national plan...
More than 60 agri-food representatives from East Anglia and the East Midlands met to help shape Defra’s new Food and Farming Plan, currently ‘work in progress’ with publication scheduled for early 2016.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the importance of the local field vegetable and horticultural growing sector, and the food manufacturers and processors who rely on locally sourced produce, the need for a secure supply of water for irrigated crops featured prominently in discussions.
NFU members were well represented amongst the farmers present and were keen to make a contribution to the new government initiative.
Sarah Dawson, Lincolnshire farmer and until recently chair of the national NFU Horticulture Board identified the three main issues for her to grapple with on the farm as weather, the ability to secure resources, and the volatility of the marketplace.
She thought that food supply chains must get shorter and advocated opportunities for forward selling in more commodities.
Martin Collison, Norfolk agri-food consultant ,summarised some of the discussion during the day looking at how the Defra plan should address the management of risk to changing climate and price volatility.
He said that Defra should use its plan to address increasing vulnerability to floods and droughts, and the impacts that future weather events would have on food supply and prices.
There was broad agreement amongst delegates at the event that securing water to meet future demand depends on working in partnership within agriculture and with other sectors such as public supply, focussing activity at a catchment scale, and incorporating improvements in water capture and use with improved management of soils.