Food security is an issue that does need addressing because of global drivers like climate change, population growth and increased demand for renewable fuels, according to the NFU.  

But the union has stressed that food security is not the same as self-sufficiency and it does not want to see government set strict targets on food production or intervene in the market.

Instead, NFU president Peter Kendall has called for discussions to be held on setting up an ‘early warning system’ to help safeguard the productive capacity of British farming.

Speaking at the NFU media breakfast at the Royal Show (2 July), Mr Kendall said he envisaged the system being based on one or more indicators of the productive capacity of British farming, such as the UK’s share of EU production in different sectors.

“When that falls by a given amount, the alarm bell would ring. I suggest that if the alarm goes off there should be an immediate and rapid investigation by a joint industry/government panel.

If the conclusion was that the farming sector had simply become less efficient then that would be an issue for the industry to resolve, he said.

But if it transpired that the problem was low producer prices it would be an issue for the supply chain and if the problem was regulation or distortions it would be one for government.

Mr Kendall said: “My idea is for an early warning system that would sound when production starts to go the wrong way. We would be happy to discuss details with other parties, but I envisage an indicator like Britain’s share of EU production in different sectors.

“When that falls by a given amount, the alarm bell would ring just as when the Bank of England misses its inflation target by more than one percentage point the Governor has to write to the Chancellor to explain why.

 “Farming does matter now. We need to remain profitable and competitive. It would be a real tragedy if British farming were to sleepwalk into decline.”