Farmer Focus Arable: Jim Alston is concerned about food security

I don’t believe it – just 18 months from world food shortages to a position where no one wants what I grow anymore, let alone pay for it.

It feels like agriculture is becoming the grumpy old man of industry once again.

Harvest in this part of the world finished earlier than I can remember and it looks like potatoes will get off to an equally prompt start in the first week of September.

As with the cereals, quality seems good at the moment; but how good it will be when it joins all the other good crops in the packhouse remains to be seen.

Sugar beet is marching towards a significant yield. That and the outlook for alternatives will not make the NFU’s William Martin’s job of negotiating with British Sugar any easier.

I support what he is doing and hope that his request that contracts be sent to the NFU is heeded. For sugar beet growers to waver now having been so united previously would be a mistake.

The recent BBC TV documentary series presented by George Alagiah, The Future of Food follows recent DEFRA announcements saying there won’t be enough in the future.

So food security is still worrying enough to get an audience, but what about some action?

DEFRA thinks it’s sufficient just to say there is not enough. To ensure security the UK needs to target exports of commodities and finished food products.

Since British Cereal Exports disappeared into the HGCA I’ve heard little of it and suspect even less will be heard in the new set-up.

DEFRA can help by facilitating and grant-aiding improved processes and facilities aimed at food exports. Concentrating only on satisfying national food supply requirements is the wrong way to create security and promoting a vibrant industry.

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