17/08/2015 06:25 BST | Updated 12/08/2016 06:59 BST

It's Time to Back British Farming


We've declared today as Back British Farming Day. The timing is crucial.

Today would mark the day in the calendar year when our own food supply would run out. This makes for stark reading, especially as we are currently in the middle of a perfect storm of plummeting farmgate prices, a downward spiral for essential household food items on a global scale; and retailers not helping the situation by devaluing our products.

The headline figure is that we only provide 62% of the country's food supply. And this is set to get worse. The UK is on course to become the most populous country in the European Union - an estimated 77million people by 2040 - and official figures suggest our ability to feed ourselves will drop to just 53% by then.

So, my message today is: it is time to Back British Farming.

And everyone has their part to play, including our farmers.

Sustainably increasing production is a challenge I know farmers are up for, but they need to have the right conditions which make it possible for them to have a viable future in order to produce Great British food now, tomorrow and in the future.

It may not seem obvious, but farming offers a lot more than just the food we produce, such as the value we add to the economy, employment and our beautiful and diverse countryside.

But this is under threat and that's why farmers have taken part in protests to show the level of desperation felt as they face severe financial hardship in the current situation. Farming as a business has relatively long production cycles to produce the nation's food. What happens one year will continue to have impacts for the immediate years to follow. Back in 2012/13 we saw that the weather is one factor that can cause extreme uncertainty, today however, that volatility is being caused by uncertainty in markets which is not helped by retailers playing fast and loose on promotions, a lack of investment across the board and pressure from increased imports.

We have met with the UK Farming Unions this week and agreed a list of urgent actions to move us on from this current dire situation. Nobody would want a situation where Britain produced less than half the food it needs, we need action now to ensure that the British public - who tell us time and time again that they want to buy British - have that option in the future.

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