UK food supply at risk from climate change – Defra

Climate change poses “significant risks” to the UK food supply chain, says a government report.

Published by Defra, the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment report looks at the risks and challenges associated with global warming.

“The government recognises that climate change will present significant risks to the availability and supply of food in the UK,” it says.

See also: Farmers ‘cannot ignore threat of climate change’

However, the report says the government only partially agrees with experts, who earlier named food production as a priority area that requires “more action” to cope with climate change.

The government said it was working closely with the industry to ensure the security and resilience of the UK’s food supply.

“The resilience of food supply chains is regularly tested by severe weather and other events, and consistently performs well,” it said.

“Recommendation[s] that new policy is needed to manage risks to UK food prices therefore does not align with the findings from our own research.”

The government said it took a “more optimistic view of the levels of resilience that are achieved through functioning markets and diverse sources of supply”.

Access to variety of markets

It said UK food security was built on access to a wide variety of markets, including through a rules-based world trading system operating alongside food production in the UK.

The government said its assessment of priority risks and opportunities would help to improve understanding of the risks to the resilience of our food system.

“We will be reviewing the UK Food Security Assessment during the course of this parliament, and are currently scoping the priority areas on which to concentrate.”

Water supplies

The report also acknowledges that climate change combined with population growth may put greater pressure on water availability – including for agriculture.

By the 2050s, many catchments across the UK will need to manage water deficits and competing demands for water for public supply, industry, agriculture and the environment, it says.

Defra Minister Lord Gardiner said the government recognised that climate change was one of the most serious environmental challenges the UK faced as a nation.

He said: “That is why we are taking action, from improving flood defences across the country to securing our critical food and water supplies.”

The latest assessment would help the government develop a long-term programme to tackle risks so it could continue work to protect the nation better.