Opinion: The time has come to recruit a minister for food security

We need to ask the question: how much does this government value domestic food production and food security?

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to intensify and threatens the beginning of World War Three, as well as highlighting the UK’s vulnerability in terms of food security.

Politicians dream of cheap food to feed the home nations to keep them in power.

They know it is a big vote winner, especially given that the country is battling an acute cost-of-living crisis, leaving families unable to make ends meet.

See also: FW Opinion: Farming must help educate consumers about food

About the author

Colin Rayner is the director of farming company J Rayner & Sons in Berkshire. Here, he argues that, given the cost-of-living crisis and impending food shortages, the government needs to reset its priorities.

Due to current global food shortages, do we have the luxury of tilting agriculture towards the environment and carrying on blithely with the government’s rewilding programme? 

Or is now the time for this government to put on hold its ambitions of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and focus on using land to produce more of our own food?

I am also wondering if we need to look again at organic farming. Do we have enough food reserves to allow lower production levels on good, productive soils?

It is certainly time that this government gives us access again to the chemicals we need, such as neonicotinoids, so we can grow oilseed rape to allow us to make up for the loss of vegetable oil supplies from Ukraine.

I believe the government should now seriously consider recruiting a minister for food production, who would be tasked with introducing minimum targets for domestic food production.

This would place food production on a war footing, to ensure that sufficient, safe, affordable and nutritious food continues to be available to all people.

To achieve this, the government needs to reverse its plans to cut direct payments, and increase payments to farmers to grow more crops and rear animals that are currently unviable.

It is about time our political leaders wake up, smell the coffee and recognise that there is a food shortage, which looks set to get worse over the coming months and years.

We are going to need to ask every farmer to produce more food to ensure we do not starve.

Politicians should also understand that, if we produce more food, the price of everyday items will drop and this will make them more electable in the eyes of their constituents.

Sadly, time is running out; we need to be planting more crops and increase animal production this autumn.

Following the recent worrying news that the UK now only has one major ammonium nitrate fertiliser manufacturing plant, I would also ask this government to nationalise the one that has been closed at Ince, Cheshire, and reopen it.

Without access to enough chemical fertiliser, our crop yields will plummet, and farmers will cut back production.

Let’s face it, we simply cannot rely on cheap fertiliser coming in from abroad, as more countries are looking at the developing global crisis and reducing or even banning exports of their own products.

Prime minister Boris Johnson needs to show conviction and leadership, and take the necessary steps to ensure that our great nation does not sleep-walk into a food crisis of its own making.

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