Memorandum submitted by Food Security Ltd (SFS 62)
Response to EFRA Committee Enquiry 'Securing food supplies up to 2050: the challenges for the UK'
1. The call for such a massive increase in food production by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation is an extremely serious challenge. It is reported in the Farmers Weekly (9-1-09) that the Council of Food Policy Advisors has been instructed not to recommend any measures that would increase domestic food production. This is a strange but certainly not unexpected state of affairs. Defra is adamant that food security is global, yet refuses to take up its responsibility to play its part in increasing production.
2. Climatic conditions for food production up to 2050 are likely to be far more favourable than in many other countries. However, if the Government has any intention of responding to the call to increase food production, the following policies will have to be seriously reconsidered:
· The oft-stated intention to cut the yield-enhancing fertiliser usage nitrogen, when already the nitrate levels in many rivers is falling.
· Removal of tax relief for farm buildings, especially crippling for those already built in expectation of ABAs, giving farmers a further unwanted feeling.
· The smug feeling that we will be OK now that we are in Europe.
· The determination to raise revenue from farmers via compulsory registration for dealing with exotic diseases.
3. In order to increase food production, an impact assessment of the Government's policy to 'Scrap the CAP' should be undertaken. The following questions should be asked:
· The average UK farm income without any form of Government support would have been about £25 a week in 2007 (Farmers Weekly 8-2-08), and farmers' borrowing is at an all-time high-showing how effective Government policies for farmers to be 'keepers of the countryside' rather than producers of food have been. If SFPs or equivalent had been finished with ten years ago, who knows how many farmers would have been left by now?
· How much less tax would the Inland Revenue be collecting?
· How much will our inevitably-increased dependence on food imports, at a time when the pound is rapidly declining in value, increase a family's shopping bill? Also, how high would that bill have been by now?
4. The current UK food system is strong in that our agriculture is of the highest standard. However, its strength cannot be sustainable unless farmers receive a fair price for their produce. In the face of continual uncertainty and financial loss, it will continue to decline. If Defra does not take measure to force buyers to treat their suppliers fairly, who will? Other major issues have had to be faced by earlier governments-slavery, child labour, for example. Why should the present Government not follow suit?
5. The question raised about how well Defra engages with other relevant Government Departments is very potent. We would like to draw the Committee's attention to the recent article by the Royal United Services Institute, 'Risk, Threat and Security', in which they say "We need to remind ourselves of the first principles which govern priorities in the liberal arena of short-term party politics". Defence and security must be restored as the first duty of government. Moves are needed to take defence and security, as far as possible, back out of democracies. They make proposals "that would help both ministers and officials comprehend the inter-related nature of today's risks and the emergence of threats". How can defence be even considered without reference to the food supply? This is common sense to the simplest of individuals-maybe there is some hidden reason why politicians adamantly refuse to see it. Their antipathy to English farming seems to be distorting their judgement to the point of endangering the nation, as well as damaging our economy and therefore everybody's bank balance.
6. Some Government advisors claim that we are no longer an island, but part of a trading block. We would like to raise the question, have any signed and dependable treaties been put in place which would be honoured in the event of our trading routes being disrupted or our imports drying up for any reason? How can we be sure that France, Germany, Denmark, Holland, etc. would feed us if they needed their own supplies for their own people, or in the event of international crisis? These nations have not been inclined to come to our aid over the years-some certainly do not pull their weight in Afghanistan. Do we really want the humiliation of having to call on America and Australia again? We spoke to the Australian Ambassador when he was at Westminster a while ago, and he assured us that they would help us if necessary, but why should we allow such a terrible situation to develop again, where we expect these countries to sacrifice their men, ships and planes on our behalf? We were ashamed as we spoke to him. Have we forgotten the suddenness of Russia's recent invasion of Georgia? We certainly worried at the time as to what the consequences might be worldwide. No doubt the Committee members are aware that, while the EU is busy regulating on pesticides and nitrogen, Russia is busy with a massive re-armament programme, costing some $183 billion dollars (see House of Commons debate, 'Defence in the World', .1.2.07).
7. The present economic crisis may well prove impossible to solve until attention is paid to agriculture-the primary industry which is the foundation and mainstay of the economy. Has this not been proved in Zimbabwe?
Food Security Ltd