A new report published by the NFU paints an alarming picture of the UK’s dwindling self-sufficiency in food.
The report, which will be revealed on the opening day of the NFU Conference in Birmingham, suggests that if current trends continue, just 53% of the nation’s food needs will be met from home farms in the next 25 years, creating serious implications for the British economy, food security and employment.
With the population expected to boom over the coming decades, there will be around 13m more people in the UK by this time.
Food self-sufficiency has been on a downward spiral here for 30 years, with the figure currently standing at 60%.
The NFU says action must be taken now, and by successive governments, to reverse the trend.
Its report comes at a time when the public is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of British food and farming.
New YouGov figures show that 85% of the UK population want to see supermarkets selling more food from British farms – an increase from 79% in 2014.
NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “Today’s report highlights the causes of the decline in self-sufficiency, including shifting and conflicting direction on European and UK farm policy; declining investment in publicly funded research and development; poorly crafted regulation, and weak bargaining power within the food chain.
“Our report focuses very clearly on what needs to be done to reverse this trend.
“The stark choice for the next government is whether to trust the nation’s food security to volatile world markets or to back British Farming and reverse the worrying trend in food production.
“I know what I want to happen. I want to see a robust plan for increasing the productive potential of farming, stimulating investment and ensuring that the drive to increase British food production is at the heart of every government department.”
NFU deputy president Minette Batters said: “The important thing to remember about self-sufficiency is that it is a yardstick for measuring how competitive we are and how much we produce.
“It doesn’t mean limiting or reducing export; it means capitalising on what we are already good at and being able to provide great British food to shoppers and food procurers throughout Britain.
“We know 85% of the public have said they want to see more British food on the shelves.”
NFU Vice President Guy Smith, meanwhile, pointed out that farming currently produces most of the raw ingredients for Britain’s food and drink industry, which is worth £97bn and provides jobs for 3.5m people across the country.
“With that in mind, the prospect of the UK becoming less than 50% self-sufficient should ring alarm bells across all political parties,” he said.
“Our burgeoning trade deficit in food and drink isn’t just worrying in terms of food security; it also has important implications for jobs and general economic health.”