Farmers ‘frustrated and worried’: UK’s food security under threat amid government attitude debate
The UK’s food security is under threat as the government continues to debate its attitude towards agriculture. With farms producing just 60% of domestic food supply, British farmers are feeling “frustrated and worried” about their future prospects.
Andrew, a farmer in Hertfordshire, spoke candidly about his concerns: “There’s no guarantee that our food will be there if it’s a weather problem or a crop problem abroad, and it’s not there to buy, no matter how much money you’ve got. This government has no interest in protecting the agricultural industry at all.”
The percentage of domestic production has dropped from 78% in 1984, but has been at around 60% for the last decade. While the UK can’t produce everything it needs domestically – bananas and pineapples are an obvious example – climate change is making self-sufficiency increasingly important according to Minette Batters, President of the National Farmers Union (NFU).
At a press conference this month, she said: “I have never known such volatility in the global food system. Climate change is wreaking havoc on food production across the world, with farmers in Southern Europe literally fighting fires while farmers here are despairing as they now must spend thousands of pounds to dry sodden grain.
“It is clear that our food supply chains need to be better prepared and more resilient, so that we are not over-reliant on imports when other countries are also facing significant challenges economically and climatically. Our supply chains are too vulnerable. So, the government needs to take an active interest in the UK food chain resilience. It starts and ends with our food security – we need to be able to produce more of our own food at home, regardless of what else is happening in the world.”
The NFU is calling on the government to legislate so that the UK’s self sufficiency does not drop below 60%. Olivia Richardson, chair of the NFU Next Generation forum, believes that cheap imports from countries like the EU and Australia and New Zealand are affecting UK farmers: “If people are demanding cheap food and we are having to compete with cheap imports, then the government is going to have to support us.
“Take subsidies away all you like, but at the same time then stop cheap imports. I think there’s a lot of frustration and worry really about how we can compete going forward to make our own food security more sustainable in the future.
“If we want really high standards of welfare and if we’re trying to look after the environment as much as we can, then it’s completely pointless getting cheaper imports that aren’t produced to the same high standards.”
Both Labour leader Keir Starmer and Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Jim McMahon have said that “food security is national security”.
McMahon told NationalWorld: “Thirteen years of Tory government negligence has seen British food producers undermined in every way possible which has harmed jobs, rocketed prices and damaged our food security. The Tories have failed at every turn, creating a perfect storm of endless red tape, botched trade deals, broken support schemes, labour shortages and crippling production costs which have undercut our own producers and squeezed hard-working families beyond any limits on their weekly food shop.
“Labour is clear – food security is national security. Labour has a plan for supporting our food producers by ensuring that we buy, sell, make and grow more great British food, entrenching Britain’s reputation as a beacon for quality food, high standards and ethical treatment of animals.”
Farming Minister Mark Spencer said: “I will always back farmers and I pay tribute to their hard work and dedication all year round to put food on our tables.
“I will continue to do all I can to support them – from maintaining the £2.4 billion annual budget to the recent Farm to Fork summit where we announced a package of measures to protect farmers’ interests in future trade deals, boost domestic fruit and vegetable production and deliver new investment in technologies.
“As the Prime Minister made clear at the summit, we are committed to maintaining food production at current levels. Supporting our farmers and food producers remains at the heart of our plans to grow the economy.”
The government says that the UK has a high degree of food security and a highly resilient supply chain. Defra added that in the Agriculture Act 2020, the government made a commitment to produce an assessment of our food security at least once every three years – with the most recent one being published in December 2021.
At that point, a clearer picture of food security will be available and it is hoped that this will allow for appropriate policy measures to be implemented to ensure that food security remains at a high level across the UK. Until then, farmers are hoping that their concerns about government policy will be heard and acted upon. Otherwise, British food security will remain at risk.
This has been an ongoing issue for some years now and the agricultural industry is hoping that with growing public awareness of this problem, the government can be convinced to take action to ensure UK farmers are supported in their efforts to provide sustainable food production. Until then, farmers continue to operate in a climate of uncertainty.
Despite this, there are positive steps that can be taken to ensure a secure supply chain. Consumers should support local farmers by buying locally sourced food and businesses should look into equitable trade practices such as Fairtrade certification. This would help provide more financial security for farmers while also ensuring the highest standards of food production. The government must also take action to ensure that our food security remains resilient in the face of global challenges.
The long-term success of our food security is dependent on our ability to produce enough, and maintain it at a level that meets the needs of all UK citizens, as well as being able to source food from around the world when needed. It’s clear that we need a comprehensive approach to address these issues which could include government subsidies, better supply chain management and the implementation of new technologies.
By taking action now to ensure our food security and that of other nations, we can ensure a more secure future for all. But it will require political leadership, collective responsibility and continued public engagement to make sure that this happens. With everyone working together, we can guarantee the UK’s food security for generations to come.
This is a vital issue for everyone in the UK, and it’s time to take action now. Every decision we make has an impact on our food security, and by taking a proactive approach towards this issue we can ensure that our future is secure. With the right policies in place and continued public support of farmers, there’s no reason why we can’t work together to make sure the UK has a secure food supply for years to come.
There are already some great initiatives in place, such as the ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ scheme which helps support local restaurants and pubs, but more needs to be done to ensure that our food security is protected. This includes government subsidies for farmers, better supply chain management and the introduction of new technologies which can help improve production efficiency. It’s time for everyone to come together and take action on this issue. Let’s make sure that we leave a legacy of food security for future generations. Together, we can ensure a secure future for all!