The NFU is calling for a commitment from government that Britain’s food production will not slip below its current level of 60% self-sufficiency, alongside greater ambition in promoting British food at home and abroad to aid food security.
The call comes on Back British Farming Day [Wednesday 15 September] as the NFU releases a new report1 which asks for the government to complete a comprehensive report on UK food security later this year, covering the country’s production of key foods and its contribution to global food security2.
This would be the first meaningful assessment of UK food security in more than a decade and the first under the requirements of the Agriculture Act (6.1, 17) that mandate reporting every three years.
The report also showcases how the UK can reduce its reliance on food imports by harnessing the growth opportunities for different home-grown foods and increasing British sourcing in public procurement, coupled with ambitious food and trade strategies that will help farmers provide more quality, affordable and climate-friendly food to people at home and abroad.
NFU South East regional board chairman David Exwood, who farms in West Sussex, said: “Farmers and growers produce world-class food here in the maritime climate of the South East. Not only is it delicious and nutritious, but it meets some of the most demanding standards for environmental care, animal welfare, traceability, and food safety.
“Few countries around the world can say that their food standards match those of British farmers, yet over the past few years, the country’s self-sufficiency has dropped from a high of 78% in the mid-80s to its current level of just 60%. It would be a mistake for this productivity to drop still further, leaving the country reliant on the rest of the world to feed us. That’s why we’re asking Government to undertake a comprehensive report into food security and take appropriate action to demonstrate its commitment to boost sustainable food production in Britain. This would not only help reduce the UK’s reliance on imports, which often fall below our own high standards of production, but also enable farmers to build the British brand overseas through trade.”
Mr Exwood, of Itchingfield, near Horsham, added: “If Government can #BackBritishFarming, then farming’s economic contribution can increase accordingly. Farming is poised to produce greater quantities of affordable, climate-friendly British food for UK shoppers and people around the world, while bolstering domestic and global food security.”
- The full report, British Food: Leading the way, makes a number of requests to Government, including:
- Extending Defra’s ministerial portfolio to include food security and agri-food trade and competitiveness.
- UK-produced food to be put at the heart of public procurement policy with assurances that the public sector does not provide a back door to food imports not produced to UK production standards.
- An ambitious marketing strategy for British food exports which includes agricultural counsellors in key potential markets across the world and UK government-backed promotion of ‘Brand Britain’.
- A supportive approach that enables new technology and innovation to be embraced by farmers, ensuring international competitiveness and climate friendly food production.
- Domestic policies – and the associated investment needed – that ensure farmers can continue to be producers of world-leading food while delivering for the environment, the economy and net zero.