The NFU is calling on government to make a strong commitment to British farming to ensure a secure supply of home-grown food for shoppers after new figures put the UK’s self-sufficiency at 61%.
The call comes on the day, 11 August, the country would notionally have run out of food if we had only eaten British food from 1 January 2019. The NFU’s ambition is for British farming to produce more food for a growing population while at the same time delivering on an ambitious plan to achieve net zero in agricultural emissions by 2040.
NFU President Minette Batters said: “British farming has a great story to tell. From West country Red Tractor assured beef to Welsh lamb, Cumbrian sausages to Kent strawberries and Herefordshire apples to Wensleydale cheese – our farmers and growers are delivering some of the highest quality food in the world.
“But we also deliver so much more. When people buy British food they are buying into standards that protect and enhance our natural resources and iconic landscapes. They are buying into world-leading standards of animal welfare, and they are buying into the role farmers play in combatting the climate change challenge which is facing us all.
“But there is a lot at stake. This autumn is critical to the future of British farming and with it our ability to feed ourselves.
“We need a clear pledge from government that it will not let our current self-sufficiency levels fall below today’s 61%. Our self-sufficiency has declined over recent years and our political leaders need to take this seriously. While we will never be completely self-sufficient as a country it is vital that Britain takes its role as a food producer for its growing population seriously and does not rely on the rest of the world – with wildly varying standards of production – to feed our population which is likely to grow to 73 million people in 20 years’ time.
“For our part, British farming is entering a new era. We have set our ambition to be net zero by 2040 and with the right food and farming polices in place I believe we have the right roadmap to deliver.
“We are ready and able to drive productivity while using less inputs and in smarter ways, we are ready and able to plant bigger hedgerows, more woodland and secure more carbon rich soils, and we are ready and able to contribute more to renewable energy combined with carbon capture and storage in our grasslands used for grazing.
“British farming is the backbone of the country’s largest manufacturing industry; food and drink. It contributes more than £120 billion to the UK economy and employs over four million people.
“In the next few weeks we will have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape our future. I hope today acts a wake-up call for all those in power to look at what can be gained and also what is at stake.”