Food security must be key part of green recovery from Covid-19 says NFU

NFU fruit Raspberries

A green recovery from Covid-19 is a ‘golden opportunity’ for British farming to become a global leader in delivering food security and set the benchmark for sustainable food production around the world, the Warwickshire-headquartered National Farmers Union (NFU) said today.

August 21 marks the notional date in the calendar that would see the UK run out of food if it relied solely on UK produce. The nation’s self-sufficiency currently sits at 64 per cent and has remained stagnant for a number of years.

While the nation is encouraged to be healthier and eat more fruit and veg, our domestic production of these products falls below our potential. The nation is only 18 per cent self-sufficient in fruit, 55 per cent in fresh vegetables and 71 per cent in potatoes. For both veg and potatoes, this has fallen by 16 per cent in the past 20 years.

Minette BattersNFU President Minette Batters said: “For an island nation, being able to feed our population is absolutely critical. Even as a global trading nation, shocks can expose fragilities in any reliance on imports. We all experienced the impact of this during lockdown.

“Imports will always play a crucial role in our food system but our own self-sufficiency must be paid more attention by government. It is stagnating. We sit now at only 64 per cent self-sufficiency, having fallen from over 75 per cent in the mid-1980s.

The NFU’s call for more food security comes as Gloucesteshire-based Happerley, a not-for-profit organisation founded by farmers to validate the provenance of food ingredients and help consumers to know where their food is from, is planning to launch its first food and leisure destination later this summer.

Based at Lock29 in Castle Quay, Banbury, Happerley England will give farmers, suppliers and producers a platform to champion their produce for which they will be able to name the exact sources of their core ingredients back to the primary producers.Happerley England says this is the UK’s first centre to celebrate food & drink provenance.

Minette said that with those tasked with rebuilding the UK economy aiming to build back better and greener, British farming can be central to that green recovery. She said: “We have a golden opportunity to place food security at the centre of our food system and become a global leader in sustainable food production.

“We have the capacity to do much more. We cannot let our self-sufficiency slip further. The government has a crucial role to play in this. Food security should be placed at the heart of wider government policies and there needs to be an annual reporting system to ensure we do not allow our domestic food production to diminish.

“Our self-sufficiency in vegetables and potatoes is falling and it’s low in fruit. We can and should drive a horticulture revolution. At a time when we should all be eating more fruit and veg, we should be looking to our farmers to deliver more quality, affordable and home-grown fresh produce to our shelves.

“This will need government investment in agriculture and, crucially, our water infrastructure to better manage increasingly volatile weather. Better water infrastructure can allow us to use one of our most abundant natural resources in rainfall to more effectively grow food and take a more integrated approach to water management.

“Farmers are uniquely placed to improve their productivity while delivering for the environment. It is crucial there is investment in agriculture as part of our green recovery in order to increase our food security, level up rural economic growth, drive green job opportunities, stimulate demand for rural tourism and help deliver the NFU’s ambition for British farming to be net zero by 2040.”

The UK food and grocery market is set to grow by 10 per cent – or by £19.1 billion to £211 billion – between 2019 and 2022, according to the latest market and channel forecast research from IGD. The new report reveals the impact of COVID-19 on the overall market over the next three years, with a breakdown of expected implications and performance on individual channels.

The pandemic has accelerated the shift to online, a channel IGD expects to mostly retain the loyalty of new shoppers gained during the pandemic. Discount will, however, become the fastest-growing channel in 2021 and 2022, as shoppers looking to economise due to rising unemployment.