DEMAND for food produced by British farms will outstrip supply by almost half in the next 25 years, the agricultural industry has warned.
A report from the National Farmers’ Union suggests the UK’s self sufficiency is in a 30-year downward spiral, with 60 per cent of food needs met with produce from farms here.
Research has found that if the population continues to grow at current rates, the figure could fall to 53 per cent by the 2040s,
The NFU, which is using its annual conference this week to highlight the importance of British food, said the problem has serious implications for the British economy, food security and employment.
Vice president Guy Smith said: “Currently, farming grows most of the raw ingredients for Britain’s food and drink industry - worth £97 billion - which provides jobs for 3.5 million people across the country.
“With that in mind, the prospect of the UK becoming less than 50 per cent self-sufficient should ring alarm bells across all political parties.
“Our burgeoning trade deficit in food and drink isn’t just worrying in terms of food security; it also has important implications for jobs and general economic health.”
Farmers are calling for all politicians to set out how they will help the industry cope with growing population, climate change and market volatility as May’s general election race edges closer.
They want to see measures to boost productivity, including increased investment in agri-science, implementing all areas of a 25-year strategy to eradicate TB which includes badger culling, and a review of measures aimed at making EU subsidies “greener”.
NFU president Meurig Raymond has also raised concerns about the UK’s potential exit from Europe, with a possible EU referendum looming after the General Election.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “From farm to fork, our food industry is in good health - it generated a record £103 billion for our economy last year, more than cars and aerospace combined.
“We are helping the industry become more competitive, at home and abroad, by opening up record numbers of international food markets to export our produce, making it easier for our schools and hospitals to buy local, helping consumers choose UK products and investing in cutting-edge technology like GPS-guided tractors.”