Government must turn to UK farmers

The government needs to do more to encourage the potential offered by UK food producers in the face of the growing food crisis, farmers have warned.

Speaking following a food price "summit" at Number 10 this week, National Farmers' Union president Peter Kendall, said the government still seemed reluctant to call on the farming community.

"We have enormous sympathy and concern with the problems being faced by farmers in developing countries, and it is absolutely right that they should be helped to increase their production," he said.

"But we haven't heard nearly enough about agricultural development here in Britain. It's almost as if it is seen as somehow politically incorrect to acknowledge that farmers and growers in this country have a vital role to play in contributing to the security, not just of British food supplies, but of the world's.

"As farmers and growers, we are ready and willing to rise to the challenge. But a clear acknowledgement of the value of stepping up production, backed by some serious investment in research and development and accompanied by a genuine attack on the red tape which is holding us back, would make a huge difference."

Kendall said that, by appearing to load a disproportionate amount of blame for world food price inflation on biofuels and talking about investment in agricultural development in developing countries, but not in Britain, the government seemed to have failed to grasp the potential of British agriculture and science in getting to grips with the problem.

A recent report from online comparison site Mysupermarket.co.uk showed the average shopping basket for a family of four had risen by 15% over the past 12 months.

Kendall said: "The bottom line is that food prices around the world have increased because we have not produced enough food. That is a direct consequence of the cheap food era, and the lack of investment in agricultural development, both in Britain and around the world, that was such a feature of it.

"If the government is serious about playing its part in tackling the world food shortage, it should begin by taking active steps to encourage productive farming in Britain.

"Until that happens, farmers will inevitably be sceptical as to whether the government, even now, understands that, to provide the world with sufficient food at affordable prices, you have to start by encouraging and enabling your farmers, not just in the developing world, but everywhere."