Report reveals alarming forecast for UK food security

Disturbing figures relating to the UK’s self sufficiency in food have been revealed in a new report published today by the NFU. It states that at current rates, just 53% of the nation’s food needs will be produced from home farms in the next 25 years, with potential for serious implications for the British economy, food security and employment.

With the population expected to boom over the coming decades, there will be around 13 million extra mouths in the UK by the time the country’s self sufficiency in homegrown food is predicted to hit dwindling new lows. Currently, the figure stands at 60% – following a 30-year downward spiral. The NFU says action is needed now, and from successive governments, to reverse this current negative trend.

The report comes at a time when the public is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of British food and farming. New YouGov figures show that 85% of the population want to see supermarkets selling more food from British farms – an increase from 79% in 2014.

NFU president, Meurig Raymond, says, “Today’s report highlights the causes of the decline in self sufficiency, including shifting and conflicting direction on European and UK farm policy; declining investment in publicly funded research and development; poorly crafted regulation; and weak bargaining power within the food chain. Our report focuses very clearly on what needs to be done to reverse this trend.

“The stark choice for the next government is whether to trust the nation’s food security to volatile world markets or to back British farming and reverse the worrying trend in food production. I know what I want to happen. I want to see a robust plan for increasing the productive potential of farming, stimulating investment and ensuring that the drive to increase British food production is at the heart of every government department.”

Guy Smith, NFU vice president, adds, “Currently, farming grows most of the raw ingredients for Britain’s food and drink industry – worth £97 billion – which provides jobs for 3.5 million people across the country. With that in mind, the prospect of the UK becoming less than 50% self sufficient should ring alarm bells across all political parties.

Our burgeoning trade deficit in food and drink isn’t just worrying in terms of food security; it also has important implications for jobs and general economic health.”

Sourced Market, a champion of locally sourced produce based in London, was quick to respond to the startling statistic. Founder Ben O’Brien comments, “The concern of food security in the UK is not new, but now there’s a figure and a date on it, it’s become more real – an issue we need to address right now.

“Each year we experience an increase in demand for locally sourced food. We’re always looking for new ways to support local producers, and this news will continue to drive our efforts.

“We also need clearer labelling regarding provenance so that consumers can support British producers. Many products have a union jack on the packaging and state somewhere ‘packed in the UK’. Most consumers assume this is a product produced in the UK, but it’s very likely to be produced somewhere else and only packed here in the UK.”

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