The Government must think ‘long and hard' about domestic food production amid claims that its attitude towards sustainable farming and climate change is undermining UK food security.
Farming Minister Mark Spencer told the Environmental Audit Committee last week that ‘food security has never been as high on the political agenda' and that the Government was fully aware it needed to address the impact a warming climate will have on supply chains.
Committee chair Philip Dunne asked Mr Spencer what the Government was doing to protect the UK's food supplies, which could once again be at risk from extreme weather in Europe and which had led to food shortages in the UK earlier in the year.
Mr Spencer told MPs: "Extreme weather events globally will put pressure on global supply chains and that will have an effect on the UK but the good news is that we do have very robust supply chains in place and we also have a robust domestic food supply chain.
"I do not shy away from the fact that climate change is clearly going to have an effect on the UK's food security prospects and we are going to have to think long and hard about how we mitigate the impact that is going to have on our supply chains and domestic production."
The Minister went on to explain that the UK's food production had remained stable over the past decade but that the Government was not ‘complacent' and was committed to investing in domestic agriculture in order to become more ‘efficient'.
However, a new report has warned the Government that its failure to support farmers and sustainable farming or to ‘meaningfully address' climate and nature crises is seriously undermining UK food security.
The study from the new report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said the problems were having a direct impact on farmers and food production in the UK and that ‘urgent action' was now required.
It pointed to the fact that livestock is being increasingly exposed to heat stress, growing seasons are changing, pests and diseases are living longer in warmer winters, droughts are impacting crop growth and flooding is affecting soil runoff, erosion, and harvesting.
The report called on the Government to provide £2.4 billion a year for the next decade for farm support in England to help farmers deliver better carbon and wildlife outcomes; strengthen trade deals so food imports are produced to the same standards as domestic produce; and the creation of food partnerships in local areas to increase the market for nutritious, nature and climate-friendly food.
Lesley Rankin, co-author of the report and researcher at IPPR, said: "It is crucial we act immediately and involve farmers and communities every step of the way.
"The evidence is crystal clear: protecting our planet, boosting farmers' livelihoods and food security go hand-in-hand. Now it is on the government to act to put us on a path that provides a better life for us all."