Sustainable water supply ‘vital’ for food’s future

By Matt Atherton

- Last updated on GMT

Securing a sustainable supply of water 'key' to the future of food and farming
Securing a sustainable supply of water 'key' to the future of food and farming

Related tags: Flood

Improving flood resilience and securing a sustainable supply of water is vital for the future of the food and farming industry, according to the National Farmers Union (NFU).

Environmental legislation was needed to combat the UK’s changing climate, which has impacted more than 1,000 farm businesses, the NFU said. Supporting the production of safe, high-quality and affordable food was “absolutely necessary”​, it added.

“Some of our most productive and highest value agricultural land lies in floodplains or coastal regions, is vulnerable to flooding, and deserve to be protected,” ​NFU deputy president Minette Batters said at the Floodex UK conference on May 18.

“We also need the right regulatory and environment policy in place to combat Britain’s varying climate, which has thrown a series of extreme weather events at the sector in recent years.

‘Affected over 1,000 farm businesses’

“We’re still counting the costs of recent floods in England that affected over 1,000 farm businesses. That’s in stark contrast to the dry weather in the past few months, with some parts of the country only receiving 10% of the long-term average rainfall.”

Batters urged flood management and coastal risk decisions to be made at a local level. River catchment and floodplain restoration should be introduced alongside other flood defences to help farmers downstream, she added.

“Natural flood management is increasingly being looked at to help reduce flood risk for downstream communities,”​ said Batters. “However, it is not a panacea, and should only be used alongside a package of other carefully considered measures, including river maintenance and desilting.

‘Long-term, strategic approach’

“The priorities in our Flooding Manifesto remain as fundamental as ever, including the establishment of a long-term, strategic and planned approach to manage flood and coastal risk in the future. This must enable more decisions to be made at a local level, where they will be better informed, and can ensure collaboration between all stakeholders.”

The NFU launched its Flooding Manifesto in January to highlight government priorities on future flood management. The manifesto called for increased catchment-based decisions, improved flood risk modelling, better flood risk communication, sufficient and transparent funding, and natural flood management establishment.

The manifesto was launched after 42,000 hectares of agricultural land was flooded in the summer of 2007, costing the sector £50M. During the winter of 2013 and 2014, 45,000 hectares was flooded.

Sustainable water use features in our free sustainable snacking trends webinar

The efficient use of water resources will feature in the Food Manufacture Group’s latest free-to-attend webinar, taking place at 3pm on Thursday June 15.

The webinar – Sustainable snacking trends for 2017 – will feature presentations on the effective use of water from Almond Board of California and the latest snacking trends from Innova Market Insights.

The European Snacks Association will chart on consumers’ increasing interest in ethically and sustainably-sourced snacks.

Book your free place here. 

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