Government to report to Parliament on food security.
Food security is a global issue, but for many people, it is also a very immediate concern. Households in the UK want to have access to affordable, nutritious food, while governments want to ensure access to sufficient and safe food. Meanwhile global issues such as climate change, trade and conflict are challenges to the world’s ability to feed a growing population. The new Agriculture Bill 2019-20, reintroduced to Parliament in January 2020, introduces a duty for the Government to report to Parliament on food security.
Food security is vital for the UK. We import 45% of our food. In 2019 it cost £11.5 billion to import just fruit and vegetables. We are losing good quality land due to pressure from industrialisation, plus residential and infrastructure demands. If we don’t protect our farmland, we will import even more of what we eat. The world is going to struggle to produce more food particularly as climate change takes effect. Here is an interesting article from the House of Commons library about Food Security.
UK land loss to UK agriculture has been assessed at 40,000 hectares (almost 100,000 acres) a year and rising. Food supply chains are fragile. This has been well illustrated by the pandemic, Brexit and the recent shortage of lorry drivers.
Our land is finite, it must be used in the right way. Farmers support biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation and a host of other public good services. Farmland acts as a carbon sink and is an important part of the UK’s national renewable energy supply.
Speaking on the NFU’s Self-sufficiency Day, NFU President Minette Batters said:
“For an island nation, being able to feed our population is absolutely critical. Even as a global trading nation, shocks can expose fragilities in any reliance on imports. We all experienced the impact of this during lockdown.
“Imports will always play a crucial role in our food system but our own self-sufficiency must be paid more attention by government. It is stagnating. We sit now at only 64% self-sufficiency, having fallen from over 75% in the mid-1980s.
“The entire economy is now aiming to build back better, to build back greener. British farming can be central to that green recovery. We have a golden opportunity to place food security at the centre of our food system and become a global leader in sustainable food production.
“We have the capacity to do much more. We cannot let our self-sufficiency slip further. The government has a crucial role to play in this. 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.
“Our self-sufficiency in vegetables and potatoes is falling and it’s low in fruit. We can and should drive a horticulture revolution. 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.
“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.”
Here is a link to the NFU Statement for Food Security.