Weather now biggest threat to food security

By Rod Addy contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Climate change, Agriculture, Global warming

Harsh and unseasonable weather could slash crop and animal product yields
Harsh and unseasonable weather could slash crop and animal product yields
Extreme weather poses the biggest threat to securing UK food supplies, experts at an Environment Food & Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee hearing claimed.

Committee head Anne McIntosh asked industry representatives at the hearing, part of EFRA's food security inquiry​, yesterday (February 12): “What is the biggest single challenge to food security in the UK?”

Tom Taylor, ceo of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, shot back: “Extreme weather.”​ Andrew Large, ceo of the British Poultry Council added: “Availability - a subset of extreme weather.”

Taylor, Large and other experts told how they expected global warming to continue to cause harsh and unseasonable weather conditions that would hit UK supplies of global crop and animal products.

Andrew Opie, food and sustainability policy director at the British Retail Consortium (BRC), assured the committee that retailers were fully aware of the problem.

'Business critical issue'

“It’s paramount for a retailer to build resilience into the supply chain – it’s a business critical issue,”​ he said. He linked it to the wider priority of maintaining product availability in stores, maximising consumer choice and commercial returns.

Opie highlighted the BRC’s January publication of its latest A Better Retailing Climate​ report: Driving Resource Efficiency​, which tackles issues including climate change; use of natural resources; waste; and sustainable production and consumption.

“Retailers at the moment are doing audits around the world to see how areas will be affected by climate change,”​ he added.

Their comments echoed earlier remarks made by National Farmers Union president Peter Kendall at the same hearing.

Looming threat

However, Kendall said the looming threat of climate change, exacerbated by global warming, could be countered by better take-up of new technologies.

Britain’s soils, seasonality and climate give us the natural ingredients for a productive farming sector both now and in the medium term as our climate becomes more unpredictable,” ​he told committee members.

“But investment in science and knowledge transfer will be vital in helping us capitalise on these natural advantages and enabling UK farming to maximise its food producing potential.

“We also need to create a positive legislative environment supporting the agri-food sector so farmers have the confidence to invest and can deal with unpredictable weather patterns, market volatility and any price fluctuations that may result.”​ 

The feedback coincided with Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement​ of £10M worth of funding for flood-struck UK farmers to help avert the risk of food supply disruption following recent heavy rainstorms.

Related topics: Supply Chain, Fresh produce

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