PRESS RELEASE 17th January 2005.
CAMPAIGN WILL AIM TO PUT NATIONAL FOOD SECURITY ON THE ELECTION AGENDA.
A drive to encourage candidates of all parties to take food security
seriously in the run up to the next election is being mounted by the
Commercial Farmers Group, a think tank of farmers, academics, and
agricultural business operators.
The recent publication from the Office of National Statistics showing
that food imports rose by 24.6% to £19.1 billion between 1992 and 2002,
has prompted the Commercial Farmers Group to renew its warning to
Government that Food Security should, once again, have a place high on the
The annual balance of payments deficit in food, during the same period,
has moved from a deficit of £4.7 billion to £9.8 billion.
CFG spokesman and Yorkshire farmer, Henry Fell, said:
“ In April 2004, the Commercial Farmers Group published a Discussion
Food Security - The pressures on Global Food Supply. In the
introduction we said that food security is in the national interest and
that, even in these days of apparent plenty, it is something that we take
for granted at our peril. We sought to instigate a debate that puts food
security firmly on the agenda of everyone engaged in the formation of food
and farming policy in the UK and the EU. We now intend to make certain
that all candidates in the forthcoming election are made aware of the case
for national food security.”
In order to structure this debate, a number of key issues were
There was a great deal of positive reaction at the time - although not
from Defra who seem to stand by their statement, issued in July 2003, that
‘National Food Security is neither necessary nor is it desirable.’ The CFG
believes that everything that has happened over the past six months
convinced them even more that the Government approach is both short term
and imprudent to the point of recklessness.
Hardly a day passes without further, and increasingly factual,
information about Climate Change. Even the snows on Mount Everest
are melting rapidly. The effect on low lying areas, often the most
productive agriculturally, will be fundamental.
Official asylum claims to the UK rose by 13% in the third
quarter of 2004. Globally, migration from the Third World countries
continues to climb - often, and sadly, it is those most gifted who
are seeking better opportunities but leaving the problems unresolved
Fuel prices are escalating. Petrol prices in the UK are 10%
higher than a year ago. The British Chambers of Commerce has slashed
its forecasts of economic growth due to rising oil prices. The UK is
running out of North Sea oil and can no longer benefit from higher
oil prices. Increasing fuel costs have a significant effect on the
cost of imported food.
Economic growth in China continues to surge ahead. As
standards of living improve, the Chinese (and others in Asia) are
moving from a cereal based diet to one which includes meat, a move
which increases cereal needs by as much as two and a half times. Sea
freight rates to and from China have more than doubled over the last
twelve months, and oil imports have doubled over the past four
Global population increases continue. In 1945, it stood at 2.3
billion. The UN median prediction for 2030 is 9 billion. If these
people, mostly living in the developing countries, are not fed they
will, either migrate, or go to war, or they will die. There is no
new technology in the pipeline which will dramatically increase food
production worldwide as happened with cereal production in the green
revolution of the 1970’s.
One consequence of food shortages in the Third World is
further damage to the global environment as subsistence farmers are
forced to clear timber and then grow crops on soils prone to
Terrorism and the threat of terrorism makes the long food
chains being set up by many retailers and food service companies
look vulnerable. Reliance placed on meat imports from Asia, South
America, and Australia that could easily be produced in the UK
present unnecessary risks.
One has to ask, in view of all these factors - why have food imports
increased so significantly and the economic deficit on food more than
doubled? The reasons are many and complex but two stand out:
The application of stringent animal and environmental
welfare regulations in the UK has succeeded in “exporting”
significant quantities of home production, (e.g. the pig industry
which has lost over 50%), often to those countries where the same
costly regulations do not apply, even in the EU. This is entirely
The harsh competition that exists between the main
Supermarket chains leading to an ever more intensive search for
cheaper supplies worldwide. Price rules in that world.
Everything that has happened since April 2004 - both nationally and
globally - convinces us that the need for policies that ensure reasonable
food security for the UK, especially in the medium and longer term, is
more urgent than ever.
Issued by the Commercial Farmers Group.
For further information please visit the CFG web site -