Britain’s consumers, retailers and politicians are being urged today to face up to the “worrying and continuing decline of food self-sufficiency” which has been sliding in this country since 1991.
Issuing a high-profile message to the nation, the National Farmers Union (NFU) has challenged the country to “Back British Farming” giving ready, willing and able farmers the right signals to produce more.
The NFU argument is simple enough, namely that if Britain had to rely solely on home-produced food, the nation would run out of supplies sometime today. That’s due to a self-sufficiency decline which is running at 2% year-on-year, leaving the current home-based food supply at 60% of national needs.
NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “To think UK food would only last until today without imports is an alarming notion. But looking back over the last two decades and seeing the downward slope in self-sufficiency says to me – this needs to change.
“We know people want to buy British food with 86% of shoppers wanting to buy more traceable food produced on British farms. What we need now is for farming to be at the heart of decision-making across the wider food industry and government, to allow for more food to be both produced and consumed here, in the UK.
“Even though the latest figures are startling, British farming is a sector we can be proud of,” Mr Raymond added. “It produces the raw ingredients for the £97 billion UK food and drink industry. But the trade gap is widening – while our export performance has doubled in the last decade, we are spending £21.3 billion more on imports than we are receiving from exports – up from £10.2 billion in 1991. What needs to happen now is for us as a country to give farmers the green light to produce more food for us.
“A growth plan would need a cohesive partnership of the industry and government Backing British Farming; valuing and buying more British food and helping to set a framework which supports increasing production. It would also look at how we can attract new entrants to farming and wider agriculture careers.”