‘Stark choice’: Britain will import 50% of food by 2040, farmers union warns

Reuters / Darren Staples
The UK will be importing more than half of its food supplies within a decade due to a growing population and stagnating farm productivity, farming leaders have warned.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said the UK’s falling levels of self-sufficiency would leave the population exposed to changeable prices and shortages.

Speaking at their annual conference Tuesday, the union called on politicians to invest in a more sustainable farming future for Britain and create a higher level of independence.

NFU president Meurig Raymond warned that the future of the UK’s agricultural stability was at risk.

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 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,” he said.

The union further blamed “poorly crafted regulation” for the decline in home produce, saying that EU and UK policies had “over-emphasized environmental rather than production outcomes and complicated the business of farming” and that farmers had littler power against multinational corporations.

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Farmers at the conference in Birmingham have urged politicians to step up their commitment to agricultural policies.

The UK’s food production market is worth £26 billion per year, which only accounts for a small part of the total £103 billion attributed to the food industry as a whole.

Projections from the farmers’ union suggest unless the government take drastic action to reduce dependence on foreign food, the UK will reach a “tipping point” within a quarter of a century, after which over half of the nation’s food will have to be imported.

The problems facing British farmers have been exacerbated recently, with the price of milk plummeting after a glut of dairy products on international markets.

The crash saw thousands of farmers threatened with losing their livelihood, and painted a picture of the future in which Britain imports its fresh milk.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was committed to energizing the market by opening up trade on to international markets.

“We are helping the industry become more competitive, at home and abroad, by opening up record numbers of international food markets to export our produce, making it easier for our schools and hospitals to buy local, helping consumers to choose UK products through improved country-of-origin labeling, and investing in cutting-edge technology such as GPS-guided tractors.”