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Back British farming: Give farmers green light for more produce

Yorkshire Dales

British farmers need more support

If Britain were to cease food imports tomorrow, we’d be 40% short on the food needed to feed the nation. That’s because around 60% of food in Britain is imported—despite UK farmers’ confidence in their ability to produce at a level that would render Britain almost self-sufficient.

Reliance on imports means less investment in British agriculture

By way of comparison, Australia produces more than 170% of their food requirement, leaving them able to export the excess. It’s the same story in the U.S. and France; both nations produce at a rate surplus to their needs, meaning high export and lower import, and greater support for their respective agricultural sectors.

Not so in the UK. Our overemphasis on imported goods limits investment in and support for British agriculture. By extension, UK farmers are limited in what they’re able to produce. This cycle of underinvestment in home grown produce could see the level of British food in our cupboards drop to 53% by 2040, if the UK population hits 77 million as predicted.

Strangely, our imports aren’t limited to exotic produce such as pineapples and mangoes. Even during summer, when these products are rife in Britain, supermarket shelves still stock imported cucumber, lamb, beef and more.

This overreliance on foreign produce saw Tesco come under fire last month for importing New Zealand lamb during prime British lamb season.

A better future for UK agriculture

Meurig Raymond, NFU President, had this to say:

“If we were completely reliant on British food the larder would be empty tomorrow, that is quite a scary thought and should be a wake-up call for society.

“Farmers react to markets, they react to confidence levels, they are willing to invest in the future if they have that confidence.”

Supporting UK farmers

Now more than ever, farming needs the support of politicians, retailers, and consumers to encourage investment in the agricultural sector.

Some Ministers have raised concerns over inconsistent foreign supplies and tumultuous pricing. An increase in home grown produce would allay these concerns.

Said Raymond:

“We need to ratchet up our ability to produce.

“We need to sit down and develop a growth plan because the industry is going to require a huge level of investment in the years to come.”

In this vein, the NFU has called for introduction of a financial plan to boost investment in farm machinery and infrastructure, enhance biotech, and improve fairness in supply chains; securing returns for processors, retailers and caterers alike.

At Defra, the outlook is positive. A spokesperson confirmed plans to “see the public sector sourcing £400 million pounds worth of food from the UK that they currently import.”

Shoppers prefer British produce

Opinion polls show the public would prefer to buy British produce, but some farmers believe misleading labels and supermarket promotions make this difficult.

Initiatives like LEAF’s Open Farm Sunday and the recent 24 hours in farming #Farm24 initiative are immensely helpful in raising the profile of British agriculture, giving the public insight into the real daily lives and concerns of the farmers who put food on their tables.

Government backs British farming

Government officials recently announced Armed forces and all Whitehall departments will now source food produced in Britain wherever possible, regardless of any price differences. Schools and hospitals may be next in the move to #supportBritishfarmers.

Giving farmers the green light to produce more food for the UK would be a well-deserved boost for hard-working British farmers.

At Collinson, we’re big supporters of British agriculture, providing feeding solutions to farmers across the UK since 1962. We took part in #Farm24 on 10th August, the 24-hour initiative in which farmers and key industry players told their stories to raise public awareness on the importance of British agriculture.

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