The NFU is calling for a commitment from government that Britain’s food production will not slip below its current level of 60% self-sufficiency, alongside greater ambition in promoting British food at home and abroad to aid food security.
The call comes on Back British Farming Day as the NFU releases a new report which asks for the government to complete a comprehensive report on UK food security later this year, covering the country’s production of key foods and its contribution to global food security. This would be the first meaningful assessment of UK food security in over a decade and the first under the requirements of the Agriculture Act that mandate reporting every three years.
The report also showcases how the UK can reduce its reliance on food imports by harnessing the growth opportunities for different home-grown foods and increasing British sourcing in public procurement, coupled with ambitious food and trade strategies that will help farmers provide more quality, affordable and climate-friendly food to people at home and abroad.
NFU President Minette Batters said: “British farmers produce some of the best food in the world. Not only is it delicious and nutritious, but it’s produced to incredibly high environmental, animal welfare, traceability, and food safety standards – something not every country is able to say.
“Yet, over the past few years, not enough importance has been placed on Britain’s food production. This has been all too clear as the country has watched its self-sufficiency drop from as high as 78% in the mid-80s to its current level of just 60%. As an island nation which is very well suited for quality food production, it would be a mistake to let that happen again and become even more reliant on the rest of the world to feed us.
“Delivering a comprehensive report into food security and taking appropriate action in response would show the government is serious and ambitious about boosting sustainable food production in Britain. This would not only help reduce the UK’s reliance on imports, which often fall below our own high standards of production, but also enable farmers to build the British brand overseas through trade.
“If our government truly backs the potential of British food and farming, the country could see huge benefits. British farmers could increase the industry’s economic contribution and provide more nutritious, affordable, climate-friendly British food for UK shoppers and people across the world, all while bolstering domestic and global food security.”
Other key asks outlined in the report include:
- Extending Defra’s ministerial portfolio to include food security and agri-food trade and competitiveness.
- UK-produced food to be put at the heart of public procurement policy with assurances that the public sector does not provide a back door to food imports not produced to UK production standards.
- An ambitious marketing strategy for British food exports which includes agricultural counsellors in key potential markets across the world and UK government-backed promotion of ‘Brand Britain’.
- A supportive approach that enables new technology and innovation to be embraced by farmers, ensuring international competitiveness and climate friendly food production.
- Domestic policies – and the associated investment needed – that ensure farmers can continue to be producers of world-leading food while delivering for the environment, the economy and net zero.