For most of us (on these islands) the significance of Wednesday August 14th probably passed largely unnoticed – this was the day that food supplies (for the year) would have run out today if the UK was reliant solely on domestic production. The National Farmers’ Union have suggested (and they should know) that falling self-sufficiency means that we produce less than two-thirds (62%) of the food the country consumes, this figure is down from 75% in 1991.
|And then the cupboard was bare...|
What this means is that if all the food produced in the UK in a year were stored and eaten from January 1st then our cupboard would be bare by August 14th. Farmers in Wales (and England) are right to call for support from politicians, the public and food industry to back farming and help them produce more food. We currently import around £ 37.6 billion pounds worth of food and drink often at the expense of home grown foodstuffs.
In times of political and economic uncertainty it is essential that we have a vibrant domestic food-producing industry. With world food prices remaining high and the demand for food supplies from India, China and Brazil continuing to grow it’s not sustainable or sensible to carry on relaying in imported foodstuffs. The transportation system we rely on to deliver our food supplies is over complex, increasingly last minute and reliant on vulnerable long distance distribution systems, which are dependent on increasingly expensive oil based fuels.
The problems of the recent past have been the result of long, overly complex supply chains, something which farmers warned about and which led to the horsemeat scandal. Here in Wales we have a rich natural capacity to produce more quality foodstuffs, which with investment and local purchasing could give both our farmers and their customers real opportunities.
We need to an environment where farmers can benefit from invest and new opportunities to sell their produce, at the same time we can strengthen the food chain bringing much needed food security. Our farmers already regularly produce award winning quality foodstuffs, the next step should to develop our domestic markets for their produce, with more local public procurement.
Buying local is the next significant step, this will reduce food miles and give consumers access to quality Welsh beef or lamb and other produce. Our farming sector needs to be strong and confident, something that will give us both food security and access to quality local produce. If we do this right then we can ensure that more of money remains in local economies longer, benefiting local firms and local food suppliers and the rest of us.