The UK Government has been urged by the National Farmers Union (NFU) to increase its focus on domestic food production amid a climate of global economic uncertainty and 19.2% agri-food inflation.
In a statement issued on 9 August 2023, the NFU said that statutory targets for food produced in the UK need to be brought in, mirroring those used to measure progress on environmental issues.
The call to action came at the same point in the year when food supplies would have run out if the UK was purely reliant on domestic produce grown since the start of 2023, as calculated by Defra.
In 2022, the UK was found to be 60% self-sufficient in food, down from 62% five years earlier. Self-sufficiency topped out in 1984 at 78%.
NFU president Minette Batters said that she has never seen such volatility within global food given the threat of climate change and extreme weather.
“Climate change is wreaking havoc on food production across the world, with farmers in Southern Europe literally fighting fires while farmers here are despairing as they now must spend thousands of pounds to dry sodden grain,” Batters added.
“At the same time, the conflict in Ukraine is putting pressure on the global grain market. Ongoing inflation of input costs such as energy and fertiliser have meant that, for many farmers and growers, this year has already been incredibly expensive to produce food and now the weeks of wet weather mean more money is needed to dry the harvest that’s being gathered.”
The UK must focus on food production
From the perspective of Batters and the NFU, food supply chains need to be more resilient going forward and less reliant on imports, a process that the Government is responsible for putting into action.
“It starts and ends with our food security,” she said. “We need to be able to produce more of our own food at home, regardless of what else is going on in the world.
“That’s why the Prime Minister needs to put words into action from his recent food summit and legislate to ensure the UK’s self-sufficiency does not drop below its current level of 60%. Now is the time to ensure policies are in place to support the production of quality, climate friendly, home-grown food. This government has statutory targets for the environment and Ministers need now to give the same status to our food production.”