Call for action on drought and food security

Shadow DEFRA secretary Mary Creagh has called on the government to reassure farmers and consumers it has robust plans in place to deal with drought.

“Families are already feeling the squeeze from rising food prices, which last month hit a two-year high,” said Ms Creagh.

“The driest spring on record could send those prices up even further.”

A government decision to drop plans for a Water Bill in this parliament meant delays to changes needed to use water more efficiently, added Mrs Creagh.

“The government needs to get a grip and reassure farmers and consumers that they have robust plans in place to deal with the drought and rising food prices.”

Ms Creagh made the call after the NFU warned that England faced one of its worst wheat harvests since the 1980s.

Forecasts based on a survey of NFU members suggest the wheat harvest will be 14% down on average, with farmers reaping just 6.5t/ha.

Meanwhile, drought warnings prompted Tory peer Lord Gardiner to call on the government to ensure that priority is given to food production and security.

Lord Gardiner, who is also executive director of the Countryside Alliance, tabled a question in the House of Lords on Tuesday (14 June).

If predicted drought conditions emerge, the government needs to prioritise food producers and food security, he said.

Lord Gardiner said: “The situation, particularly in central and eastern England, remains severe.

“May I therefore ask my noble friend the Minister to ensure that due priority is given now and in the future to food production and its security in the wise use of our nation’s water resources?”

In response, Cabinet minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach, acknowledged the “vital link” between water resources and food production.

It had featured prominently in government thinking, including in the recent Global Food and Farming Futures report by the Foresight group.

“These global views are equally applicable in this country, which is why water management will be a feature of the forthcoming water White Paper.”


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