NFU: act now on UK food imbalance

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has issued a New Year plea to the government to reverse the UK food gap.

The country currently imports 40% of its food – a situation set to worsen with population growth.

Peter Kendall, NFU president, said the population was set to reach more than 70 million by 2030 – which would lead to one in every two meals coming from food from abroad.

He said: “I’m not suggesting we need to take an isolationist approach to food production; we’re a trading nation and trade is also vital to our food security, it ensures variety, and is an opportunity for the industry too. But if we’re going to ensure food supplies for UK consumers, it is in our national interest to produce more in the UK.

“It is not just me saying that. It’s a formal objective of the new government, set out in black and white in Defra’s business plan. And food security – at least on a global scale – is on the radar elsewhere in government too.

“Research and development spend was protected from the worst of the cuts and the new cross-research council Global Food Security programme has been prioritised in the Department for Business Innovation and Skills’ budget allocations announced in December.”

But he also warned: “What worries me is not the government’s commitment to ensuring big-picture, global food security, but its commitment to ensuring that local food supply here at home is encouraged and enabled. A narrow localist agenda could pose a serious threat to the growth we need, whether from state-of-the-art polytunnels for soft fruit production, high-output glasshouses for vegetables, or the latest in lower-carbon, high-welfare pig and poultry units.

“Localism needs leadership, otherwise it is nothing more than a recipe for nimbyism. That is why it is absolutely crucial that the government includes food production as a strategic priority in its new national planning framework.”

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