Farming News - Too little attention to food production - the next PM has a chance to put this right says Minette Batters

Too little attention to food production - the next PM has a chance to put this right says Minette Batters

02 Aug 2022
Frontdesk / Arable / Livestock

The National Farmers’ Union president Minette Batters has warned that too little attention was being paid to food production in the UK, and called for a special hustings for contenders to discuss food security.

Writing in The Mail on Sunday, Ms Batters said: ‘To date we’ve had absolutely no plan or commitment from the Government that Britain will carry on its role as a food-producing nation.

‘Quite often, the farmers’ view is that our role as food producers is being made more difficult, rather than less, that food is viewed as just an unfortunate by-product of delivering for the environment. Our ancestors who have lived through food shortages would be turning in their graves. We should all be concerned about this abject failure by Government to take seriously the pressing problem of feeding our nation.’

Soaring global food prices are leaving many families struggling to afford shopping. Mrs Batters said it was astonishing that no government has yet delivered ‘a clear plan to ensure we maintain even the volumes of food we are currently producing’. She said the problems of Ukraine, a major wheat producer, in exporting its crops due to the war with Russia were causing prices to spiral.

Changing weather patterns are ‘also making it difficult to say with any certainty what harvests the world over are going to look like each year’, she added.

‘The prospect of “food wars” should be spurring the world’s governments into action.

‘There is a saying that we are only three meals away from anarchy – in other words, riots will break out if people miss three meals in a row.

‘Multiply that country by country and you start to get a sense of the upheaval that could result from a shortage of food.

‘So what is our Government doing to try to solve the problem? Not enough. We should all be deeply frustrated that there has been almost no attention paid to food production here at home.’

Mrs Batters said Britain has the ‘prime conditions to produce food’, adding: ‘What we have had are plans to take more farmland to plant trees and provide homes for beavers.

‘We’ve had plans for how we will build housing on farmland in our Green Belt. We’re building solar farms at pace and farmers understandably opt for them in order to reduce their exposure to the economic risks of food production.

‘But why on earth do we not take food security as seriously as energy security?’ Britain relies on the rest of the world for 40 per cent of its food, she said.

‘But when the NFU asked the Government to give a commitment that we would maintain that figure of 60 per cent self-sufficiency, it didn’t take the opportunity.

‘The next Prime Minister has a chance to put this right.’