Global challenges demonstrate need to boost food security at home

09 August 2023

Minette Batters speaking on an NFU branded podium

A changing global climate and world-wide economic instability are shining a light on the need to protect and boost Britain’s production of home-grown food.

In a year which has already seen UK agri-food inflation rise to 19.2%, and global instability caused by the ongoing war in Ukraine, the recent bouts of extreme weather1 are further highlighting the frailties of the UK’s food system.

On the day where the larder would run empty if we only ate food produced in the UK from 1 January2, the NFU is warning the government that it needs to take domestic food production seriously and ensure food is given the same focus and political prioritisation as the environment.

NFU President Minette Batters said: “I have never known such volatility in the global food system. 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 market3. Ongoing inflation of input costs such as energy and fertiliser have meant that, for many farmers and growers, this year has already been incredibly expensive to produce food and now the weeks of wet weather mean more money is needed to dry the harvest that’s being gathered. On top of the domestic weather records that have been broken this year – the driest February in 30 years and the hottest June ever recorded, followed by a remarkably wet July – I would also add the most expensive arable harvest in generations.

“It is clear that our food supply chains need to be better prepared and more resilient to deal with global shocks and the extremes of weather that are fast becoming the norm. While we will always be a trading nation in food, we cannot remain over-reliant on imports when other countries are also facing significant challenges economically and climatically. Our supply chains are too vulnerable. So, the government needs to take an active interest in the UK food chain resilience.

“It starts and ends with our food security. We need to be able to produce more of our own food at home, regardless of what else is going on in the world. Today puts that into context as it marks the day of the year we would run out of food if we only had access to UK produce.

“That’s why the Prime Minister needs to put words into action from his recent food summit and legislate to ensure the UK’s self-sufficiency does not drop below its current level of 60%. Now is the time to 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.”

More information:

  1. This year, the UK had the driest February since 1993, the hottest June on record and then unseasonal heavy rain which persisted throughout most of July and early August. The Met Office also announced today that globally, July was the hottest month ever recorded.
  2. This is calculated based on new Defra statistics for 2022 which show that Britain is currently 60% self-sufficient in food.
  3. The ending of the Black Sea grain initiative has caused more uncertainty for the global crop market and could generate large movements in grain prices due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The UK’s self-sufficiency through the years:

  • 1960 – 52%
  • 1970 – 57%
  • 1980 – 72%
  • 1984 – 78% (this is the UK’s highest self-sufficiency figure, according to available data)
  • 1990 – 74%
  • 2000 – 67%
  • 2010 – 62%
  • 2017 – 62%
  • 2018 – 60%
  • 2019 – 61%
  • 2020 – 60%
  • 2022 – 60%