East Anglia has key role to play in boosting UK's food security

Empty supermarket shelves during the coronavirus pandemic

Farmers across East Anglia can play a crucial role in improving Britain’s food security as part of a green recovery from Covid-19.

That’s the message from the NFU in East Anglia on the day (Friday 21 August) that would see the UK run out of food if it relied solely on UK produce. The nation’s self-sufficiency currently sits at 64% and has remained stagnant for years.

NFU East Anglia Regional Director Gary Ford said that, with the right support, farm businesses could make the most of the region’s climate, skills and natural resources to boost domestic food production while delivering for the environment.

Mr Ford said: “There will always be a place for imports in our food system, but we have the potential to produce more here and to become a global leader in sustainable food production.

“Our self-sufficiency in vegetables and potatoes has fallen by 16% in the past 20 years and we are only 18% self-sufficient in fruit.

“At a time when we should all be eating more fruit and veg, we should be looking to our farmers to deliver more quality, affordable and home-grown fresh produce to our shelves. Farmers in East Anglia are up for the challenge, but the government has a crucial role to play to facilitate and encourage this.”

NFU President Minette Batters said the Covid-19 pandemic had exposed the fragilities in Britain’s food supply system and the danger of becoming over-reliant on imports.

“We cannot let our self-sufficiency slip further. Food security should be placed at the heart of wider government policies and there needs to be an annual reporting system to ensure we do not allow our domestic food production to diminish,” she said.

“This will need government investment in agriculture and, crucially, our water infrastructure to better manage increasingly volatile weather. Better water infrastructure can allow us to use one of our most abundant natural resources in rainfall to more effectively grow food and take a more integrated approach to water management.

“Farmers are uniquely placed to improve their productivity while delivering for the environment. It is crucial there is investment in agriculture as part of our green recovery in order to increase our food security, level up rural economic growth, drive green job opportunities, stimulate demand for rural tourism and help deliver the NFU’s ambition for British farming to be net zero by 2040.”

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