UK farmers warn of threat to food supply post-Brexit
Britain’s farming sector could take a particularly bad hit if there is no free trade deal struck between the UK and the EU, leaving food security and access to workers at risk.
That is the warning from the National Farmer’s Union (NFU), highlighting how the UK’s ability to feed itself has been in a long-term decline as imports from the EU and elsewhere have grown.
Data from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs shows that the country only produces around 60% of its own food, and would theoretically run out of supplies on 7 August without these imports.
With the UK set to depart the EU in just eight months time, NFU president, Minette Batters, has urged the government to put farming at the top of the political agenda amid talk of a Brexit ‘no-deal’.
“The UK farming sector has the potential to be one of the most impacted sectors from a bad Brexit,” she continued.
“A free and frictionless free trade deal with the EU and access to a reliable and competent workforce for farm businesses is critical to the future of the sector.”
Despite pushing for free trade, Minette argued that now was the time for the country to focus on producing its own food, and that there was a lot of potential to improve on self-sufficiency.
The NFU highlight how Britain has some of the highest food standards in the world thanks to independent supply chain auditors, and that farming already contributes £111bn to the economy.
Moreover, greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture have fallen by 17% since 1990, while over 30,000 kilometres of hedgerows have been planted or restored under agri-environment schemes in England.
Minnette said Britain could deliver a “whole host of economic, social and environmental benefits” by increasing homegrown production, but that this would require “unwavering support” from the government.
“And as we replace the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, we must keep a sharp focus on what productive, progressive and profitable farm businesses need from a domestic agricultural policy,” she added.
Image credit: iStock
Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM