LATEST TRADE figures show a dramatic 12% decline over the past decade in the UK‘s self-sufficiency in staple foods like meat and fresh vegetables.

DEFRA‘s annual Agriculture in the UK publication shows that the UK was 86% self-sufficient in indigenous-type foods in 1994, but by 2004 this had fallen to 74%.

The document also shows that the value of food, animal feed and drink imported into the UK far exceeds the value exported.

In 2003, close to £21bn worth of food, drink and feed was imported while exports were worth just under £10bn.

A survey of a supermarket in south-west London carried out this week backed up the findings.

Of nine varieties of eating apples on sale only two were British. A scan of the shelves also found potatoes from Israel, cabbage from Spain and dwarf beans from Ethiopia.

Figures supplied by DEFRA show France was the main beneficiary of the UK‘s appetite for imported food, netting £3.8bn worth of business for its farm industry in 2003.

Other big exporting countries to the UK were the Netherlands (£3.2bn), Irish Republic (£2.5bn), Germany (£2.2bn) and Spain (£1.4bn).

The main destinations for food and feed exported by the UK were the Irish Republic (£2bn), France (£1.6bn), USA (£1.5bn), Spain (£1bn) and Germany (£1.1bn).

The main products shipped out were cereals such as wheat and barley.

A DEFRA spokeswoman said UK farmers were still providing over 70% of food on the public‘s plates and “that is a healthy market share for any industry”.

*For more detail read this week‘s issue of FARMERS WEEKLY out on Fri (Feb 4).

isabel.davies@rbi.co.uk