Campaign to boost home-grown food production launched by NFU
Today is the day when British food supplies would run out if all the food produced in Britain in a year was stored and eaten from January 1.
The stark statistic shows that Britain produces just 62% of its own food.
In a year when British farming has received strong backing from its own consumers – particularly following the horseburger scandal – the National Farmers' Union (NFU) is urging the public to help turn around a decline in self-sufficiency.
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To this end it is launching a charter for the public, politicians and food industry to sign, pledging their support.
Evidence demonstrates that the will is there, claims the NFU. A One Poll survey has revealed that 78% of consumers thought supermarkets should stock more British food and 42% said they were more likely to buy more traceable food produced on British farms.
And, the NFU insists, farmers are ready to rise to the challenge to produce more food sustainably.
NFU President Peter Kendall said the decline in self-sufficiency in many sectors should be a warning signal that something is wrong.
"To think that today's date would signal the time when our domestic food supply runs out is frankly alarming", said Mr Kendall. "It says to me that we must act.
"As an industry we have had a challenging decade, but the realisation has dawned that as a nation we can't simply go around the world chasing the cheapest deal for our food. So, instead, we need to look closer to home.
"Right across the board farmers have a fantastic natural capacity to produce more British food, given the right market signals and the confidence to invest.
"We have the right technologies to produce more from less, with precision farming helping to target fertiliser and crop-protection products within centimetres. Laser technology can even pinpoint an individual weed, improving accuracy and efficiency.
"Crops grown under cover help to lengthen the season for our fruits.
"But there is more to do to empower our farmers to enable them to make the most of our natural resources and feed our growing nation."
Mr Kendall, who is a cereal farmer from east Bedfordshire, said he wanted to know that the Government was really getting to grips with its food vision and ensuring that sustainable, productive farming was across all Government departments.
He added: "Let's create an environment which really means farming businesses can invest. Let's address market failure and iron out volatility to enable the entire food chain to increase supply.
"We have all learnt the lessons of long, complex supply chains and retailers are all telling me that they want to work with farmers to ensure their shelves are stocked with more British produce. We currently import around £37.6 billion worth of food and drink. We are a trading nation, but at a time of economic uncertainty a strong food-producing industry is essential.
"Consumers are increasingly showing their support for British farming and are our best ally. I would ask them to continue showing their support by demanding of their local supermarket, restaurant, and MP 'what are you doing to back British farming?'"
He said he could not agree more with the Prime Minister David Cameron when he said last week that "farmers are the backbone of Britain".
"I am immensely proud of British farming, and I urge everyone who cares about British food to sign our pledge being launched today to ensure this British industry thrives," added Mr Kendall.
To sign the online charter and learn more about the Back British Farming campaign, visit farmingdelivers.co.uk and look for "sign the charter".