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UK ‘is 2% less self-sufficient on food production than in 2012’, farmers warn

06:00 07 August 2014

The proportion of food the UK produces for itself is continuing to fall, with the country able to feed itself only up until today without imports, farmers have warned.

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The UK’s self-sufficiency in food dropped by two percentage points from 2012 to 60% last year, down from 75% in 1991, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said.

Popular foods such as bananas have to be imported from abroad, but there has also been a fall in self-sufficiency for food that can be grown or produced domestically, down from 77% in 2012 to 73% in 2013, and down from a high of nearly 87% in 1991.

And while food exports have doubled in the past decade, the UK is spending £21.3 billion more on imports than it is receiving from exports, up from a gap of £10.2 billion in 1991, the NFU said.

The NFU is calling for consumers, retailers, politicians and industry to back a series of measures to boost British farming.

NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “To think UK food would only last until today without imports is an alarming notion. But looking back over the last two decades and seeing the downward slope in self-sufficiency says to me ‘this needs to change’.

“We know people want to buy British food, with 86% of shoppers wanting to buy more traceable food produced on British farms.

“What we need now is for farming to be at the heart of decision-making across the wider food industry and government, for more food to be both produced and consumed here, in the UK.”

He said the UK as a country needed to “give farmers the green light” to produce more food.

“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,” he said.

The NFU wants to see a growth plan implemented which will include financial measures to boost on-farm investment in machinery and infrastructure such as water storage.

It would also include measures to improve access to new crops, biotechnology and growing systems, and for fair, transparent supply chains and secure returns from processors, retailers and caterers.

The farming body also wants effective animal health measures that lead to the eradication of bovine TB, and regulation of pesticides that encourage innovation, as well as swift deployment of new products to tackle emerging diseases, pests and weed problems

And it is calling for a partnership between Government and the industry to promote UK exports, and UK and EU trade policy to increase exports.

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