Government must make food production a strategic priority, NFU president warns

The UK's "food gap" is set to widen further unless the Government takes action to reverse the trend, NFU President Peter Kendall said in his New Year's message.

Kendall warned the Government "it is absolutely crucial" that it includes food production as a strategic priority in its new national planning framework to ensure that local food production in the UK is encouraged and enabled.

He said: "2011 will see the new Government laying the policy foundations that will be critical to whether Britain’s farmers can rise to the food production challenge of the next 20years.

"The UK’s own population is set to grow from today’s 62 million to over 70 million by 2030. If home production levels stay the same, we’ll become ever more dependent on imports. As it is, we’re already buying in more than 40% of our food, up from around 25% 20 years ago. With eight million more mouths to feed we’ll be edging towards one in every two meals coming, in effect, from food grown abroad.

"I’m not suggesting we need to take an isolationist approach to food production; we’re a trading nation and trade is also vital to our food security, it ensures variety, and is an opportunity for the industry too. But if we’re going to ensure food supplies for UK consumers it is in our national interest to produce more in the UK."

He added:  "Farmers are ready to rise to the challenge and invest in their businesses. Let 2011 be the year in which the Government takes its own commitment to increasing food production seriously and - instead of relying on imports to fill the food gap - puts in place a policy framework that will enable Britain’s producers to keep up with demand. Planning is one example, and a litmus test of how seriously the Government takes this commitment."

Planning is one area where Government policy will be developed in 2011. Other policy areas critical to ensuring increased domestic food production include: business taxation, animal disease control, CAP reform, country of origin labelling of food and the introduction of a Groceries Code Adjudicator.

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