THE BLOG

It's Time to Back British Farming to Put More Food on Your Table

07/08/2014 08:43 BST | Updated 06/10/2014 10:59 BST

This year there has been a slide in the proportion of food produced in the UK for British consumers. We're calling on government, the food industry and shoppers to put British farming - and feeding the nation - at the heart of their decision making.

We're now just 60% self sufficient - despite British farmers being geared up to produce more, sustainably, for the long term.

Self-sufficiency may not be the conclusive indicator for the success of the sector, but it's an important benchmark both to measure our ability to produce food if our imports become restricted, as well as the sector's potential to grow.

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And that's why we're encouraging consumers, retailers, politicians and the wider food industry to Back British Farming. To give ready, willing and able farmers the right signals to produce more, in attempt to arrest the worrying and continuing decline of self-sufficiency in this country since 1991.

It's a timely message, given the centenary of the outbreak of hostilities in the First World War and the huge shift in productivity our sector went through between 1914 and 1918 to feed the nation. That's a story you can read about in our special First World War report, here.

But it's timely for another reason as well. Today marks the point in the calendar year at which we would run out of food if we used only domestic supplies.

To think UK food would only last until 7 August without imports is an alarming notion. Looking back over the last two decades and seeing the downward slope in self-sufficiency says to me that this needs to change.

We know people want to buy British food. What we need now is for farming to be at the heart of decision-making across the wider food industry and government, to allow for more food to be both produced and consumed here, in the UK.

From travelling across the country, I see fantastic farms on a daily basis that are efficient and productive businesses ready to produce more, in a sustainable way.

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Even though the latest figures are startling, British farming is a sector we can be proud of.

It produces the raw ingredients for the £97bn UK food and drink industry.

But the trade gap is widening - while our export performance has doubled in the last decade, we are spending £21.3bn more on imports than we are receiving from exports - up from £10.2bn in 1991. What needs to happen now is for us as a country is to give farmers the green light to produce more food for us.

Our aim is to ensure the country - consumers, politicians, retailers and the wider food industry - is backing British farming, and within this, a solid plan for agricultural growth to ensure the current self-sufficiency trend is reversed and long-term food security is supported.

A growth plan would need a cohesive partnership of the industry and government backing British farming; valuing and buying more British food and helping to set a framework which supports increasing production. It would also look at how we can attract new entrants to farming and wider agriculture careers.