“Risk of Ransom Poses Threat to UK’s Food Security in 2023”

May 11, 2023

Food Security at Stake: Is the UK at Risk of Being Held Ransom?


Martin Kennedy draws attention to an essential issue by comparing the UK’s dependence on imported energy and food imports with their respective dependence. He cautions against becoming “held ransom” when it comes to feeding ourselves; should grocery price inflation (currently 17.3% according to Kantar) accelerate at the same rate as energy inflation (40%+), it could create an extreme situation.

NFU Scotland’s president provides an influential argument regarding the value of our food, even while consumers pay more than ever for it and primary producers face financial constraints.

UK Food security
UK Food security

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is convening an emergency food security summit next week with industry leaders to address vulnerabilities in the food system and persistently high inflation rates.

Securing farmers a sustainable income from livestock and crops is vital to any initiative to increase local food production. While multiple factors contribute to this crisis in the farming industry, one of the primary contributors is the low prices paid to farmers for their produce.

As production costs increase, farmers often only receive a fraction of the retail price for their goods, leaving them with limited resources to reinvest into their operations and incurring financial strain.

Without adequate income from farming activities, some may be forced out entirely, which would have devastating repercussions for the environment and the economy.

Finding ways to ensure farmers receive a sustainable income is of utmost importance, whether through price supports, subsidies or minimum pricing agreements that guarantee them a specific payment regardless of market fluctuations. 

As current farmgate prices are meagre, doubling them would have minimal effects on retail prices, according to Sustain research published last year.

Sustain’s analysis indicates that 480g blocks of mild cheddar sold for £2.50 at supermarkets generate only a small profit of just 3.5p, of which retailers take 2.5p.

At the same time, processors receive 0.96p – leaving less than 0.05p in profit for farmers – besides direct production costs of £1.48. The findings were similar for beef burgers, bread, apples and carrots, with apple growers recording an outstanding percentage return of 1% or 3p when sold in bags priced at £2.20!

UK Food security
UK Food security

Baroness Manningham-Buller’s warning would highlight the risks to the UK food supply if its security were threatened. She believes that food security requires ensuring reliable imports and producing as much of our own food as sustainably possible to avert future shocks due to food shortages or price spikes.

UK farming producers are experiencing an “existential crisis” as food prices do not keep pace with production costs, and debts mount for producers who struggle to cover production expenses.

Brexit and COVID-19 pandemic complications exacerbated this predicament by disrupting supply chains and leading to labour shortages that exacerbated this predicament further.

Baroness Manningham-Buller’s message is clear: the UK must prioritize domestic food production and guarantee farmers receive fair compensation for their produce.

For this, significant changes must occur both policies- and public-wise towards food, along with more substantial investment into sustainable agriculture practices and research into new farming techniques.

Failing to address issues facing the farming industry could have dire repercussions. With reliable food supplies, Britain could experience severe economic and social disruption; also, its national security could be protected if too much depended on imports from unstable regions or countries with competing interests.


The farming industry in the UK is currently facing an “existential crisis”, according to former MI5 Director-General Baroness Manningham-Buller.

Therefore, significant changes are required in policy, public perception, investment into sustainable agriculture practices, and research into new farming techniques.