UK self-sufficiency in food has stagnated, suggest new figures which show that the country would go hungry for the rest of the year if the nation relied purely on British farmers.
Today (7 August) marks the notional date in the calendar when the British larder would run bare if the nation consumed only British food from 1 January.
See also: UK food self-sufficiency drops to 60%
Defra figures showing that Britain produced only 60% of its own food in 2017 prompted the NFU to call on the government to put food security at the top of the political agenda.
NFU president Minette Batters says food self-sufficiency statistics had always been an important measure of the nation’s ability to feed itself. But with Brexit just eight months away, she said the 60% figure – which is in long term decline – shone a new light on the supply of British food.
‘Test for government’
“British food production has been pulled into sharp focus in recent weeks with farmers across the country wrangling with the impact of unprecedented dry and hot weather,” she said.
“This has been a real test for government to show the farmers and the many concerned members of the public that they think that our ability to produce food in this country is truly important.”
Every British citizen should be entitled to a safe, traceable and high quality supply of British food produced to some of the world’s highest animal welfare and environmental standards.
“Home-grown food production must have the unwavering support of government if we are to achieve this post-Brexit,” said Ms Batters.
Although the statistics showed a concerning long-term decline in the UK’s self-sufficiency in food, there was a lot of potential for this to be reversed, she added.
Maximising the amount of food that could be produced well in the UK would deliver a host of economic, social and environmental benefits to the country, said Ms Batters.
And with agricultural goods subject to potentially high tariffs, the UK farming industry could be one of the most impacted sectors from a bad Brexit.
“A free and frictionless free trade deal with the EU and access to a reliable and competent workforce for farm businesses is critical to the future of the sector,” said Ms Batters.
As the UK moves out of the EU, it will be important to keep a sharp focus on what productive, progressive and profitable farm businesses need from a domestic agricultural policy, she added.