NFU Horticulture Board member, Sarah Pettitt, reflects on a challenging year so far, and what is needed to secure the confidence for the year ahead.
2018 is not over yet, but given that it has been such a challenging year I can’t help look forward to the New Year; a year in which British farming becomes even more important to the nation as a whole.
The world’s food supply is balanced on a knife edge between sufficiency and shortage. If you couple that with the impact of EU Exit, the Agriculture Bill, and increased demand for secure UK domestic supplies, it is clear that long-term enabling legislation and fair stable market prices are needed now, probably more than ever before.
No country can afford to neglect the productivity of its own food producing sector, least of all a country like the UK, which has allowed its self-sufficiency in indigenous foods to fall by 15 per cent in the last fifteen years.
Britain’s farmers and growers are more than capable of rising to the challenge of increasing their productivity, and reversing this downward trend for self-sufficiency, but only if given fair markets and proportionate regulation. However, after the adverse weather of 2018, and in the wake of years of overall falling incomes and uncertainty about the post EU Exit future, confidence is naturally low.
To get this confidence back, what we need is for Government to give a clear, unequivocal acknowledgement of the value of productive food and farming, and to show this in both its support and enabling regulation. But beyond that, the acid test will be measured in actions, not words. It will revolve around whether Government takes the opportunity to enable and empower rather than encumber and encroach.
We have our own part to play as well. It is enormously important that as businesses we continue to create the right environment in the workplace and local community for all workers – home grown or foreign nationals. Certainly from a Lincolnshire perspective, we appreciate that without the migrant workers that have migrated to live and work in our area, we would not have been able to achieve the growth and prosperity in our area.
I am looking forward to 2019. There will be challenges for sure, there may well be many difficult decisions to make, and without any doubt there is much work to be done, but I for one am up for the challenges of the future, whatever it may hold.