A Hockley Agro UK article asked if lockdown has permanently changed attitudes to British farming. It pointed out that when demand soars in a crisis and global supply chains are frustrated, having food available locally is of paramount importance. Locally grown food creates important economic opportunities, provides health benefits and helps to reduce environmental impact. Eating what is produced here in the UK is key to reducing food miles and avoiding unnecessary packaging. It ends:
“Producing food within our shores is vital to support the economy, help maintain high levels of animal welfare, control sustainability and assist in improving soil heath. To suggest an end to agriculture as an industry would mean an end to large agricultural employers and local family farms alike”.
Camilla Hodgson reports that the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has warned the UK would run out of food in just seven months if it relied solely on homegrown produce. Self-sufficiency in food has stagnated with government figures showing that Britain produced only 61% of its own food in 2017, a rate in long-term decline.
“The statistics show a concerning long-term decline in the UK’s self-sufficiency in food and there is a lot of potential for this to be reversed. And while we recognise the need for importing food which can only be produced in different climates, if we maximise on the food that we can produce well in the UK then that will deliver a whole host of economic, social and environmental benefits to the country. Home-grown food production must have the unwavering support of Government if we are to achieve this post-Brexit.”
Richard Harvey Owston, Rutland who founded Manor Farm Feeds in 1986, asks if the UK really wants to become totally dependent on imported food at a time when we are witnessing a worldwide trade war led by the power-hungry leaders of the major nations.
He fears that, although our politicians are paying lip service to the future support of food production, ‘the small print indicates otherwise’.
Since the coronavirus pandemic took over and some supermarket egg and flour shelves are still bare here – and in parts of America – there has been greater public awareness of the fragility of our food system.
An earlier post said: “After 50 years of unjust returns for perishable produce, the coronavirus is beginning to affect food imports, just as bombing and submarines did during the last war”.
As one article in Prospect magazine commented earlier this month, supermarkets currently dominate the retail sector, with the “Big Four” often lobbying together and using their significant bargaining power to push down prices paid to farmers.
It is widely quoted that in 2016, according to ‘official estimates’, producers on average received 9p for every pound spent in a supermarket, compared with 45-60 per cent of the money consumers spent on food in the 1950s.
Yasemin Craggs Mersinoglu reports that more farms have turned to home delivery services and a YouGov survey has found that three million people are trying box schemes or buying food from a local farm for the first time.
A Share of The Crop, a veg box supplier which sources produce from southeast England, received a year’s worth of additional orders during a single week in March.
Lauren Simpson, a farmer based in West Wales, hopes that this shift to local food will create a fair transition into a more sustainable food system.
She is a member of the Landworkers Alliance which is lobbying for the government to build a shock-resistant food system.
An emergency support fund for small farms during the pandemic, would be followed by provision of grants to new entrants to the industry, citing the need to grow more food in the UK and further assistance to create local supply chains, processing facilities and distribution networks.
To these measures should be added promotion of the Ripple Farm model: good practice which attracts reliable local workers (right):
- holiday pay,
- sick pay
- good protective clothing
- year-round employment five days a week,
- job rotation: a hard stint outdoors in the morning, balanced by a less arduous indoor job in packing and admin in the afternoon.
Security: relying on imports or increasing the supply of home-grown food?
The government has consistently asserted that improving international trade relationships is the route to food security, but, as climate instability and Covid-19 have shown, the UK is vulnerable to global political, economic and public health challenges.
Yasemin concludes that short supply chains, with veg boxes and comparable schemes supplying fresh fruit, dairy and poultry, are not only better for the environment — they also help small producers to get a fair price by enabling smallholder farmers and smaller-scale retailers to sell directly to members of the public. They are then in control, having direct support from their community, no longer harassed by overnight order changes by the big supermarkets.
Reuters correspondent, research scientist and environmental advisor: “There may be the seeds of some good things in this pandemic”
“Air pollution has decreased in urban areas across Europe during lockdowns to combat the coronavirus, new satellite images showed on Monday. Air pollution can cause or exacerbate lung cancer, pulmonary disease and strokes. China also recorded a drop in nitrogen dioxide pollution in cities during February, when the government imposed draconian lockdown measures to contain the raging epidemic”.
Dr David Wilson (right) – geologist and earth scientist – points out in the Financial Times the effect on economic output of the changes brought about by coronavirus. “Some of us will be travelling less. Some might seek a different trade-off between work and leisure. Carmakers might cut their excess production capacity”. He continues:
“I cannot be the only one to think that less air travel, more leisure, and not quite so many cars on the roads might all be rather good things”.
The trouble comes from economists and financial journalists who, despite their best intentions, find it impossible to abandon the idea that GDP is good in itself (and that more must be better). Dr Wilson says that this ‘axiom of so much modern policymaking’ must be abandoned. ’The point of government is not to ensure economic output of so much per head of population, it is to give citizens the chance of good lives bailouts of businesses and households must learn from the mistakes of 2008 and protect the small and vulnerable.
He comments: “If we’re to learn anything it is that ‘recovery planning’ should not begin by re-ﬁlling the streets with a problem our children’s lungs didn’t need in the ﬁrst place. Putting clean before dirty must be at the heart of post-crisis planning. It would mark the end of neoliberalism’s Armageddon economics”. He later focusses on strategic ‘food supply’ issues.
“Internationally, buffer stocks of food are getting caught up in siege mentalities. Kazakhstan, one of the world’s biggest shippers of wheat ﬂour, has banned its export. The same ban applies to carrots, sugar and potatoes. Serbia has stopped exporting sunﬂower oil and other food goods. Russia is weighing up whether to follow suit. It won’t stop there. Wild weather across Europe and beyond is causing mayhem with global food supply. Domestic needs will come before international trade . . .
“We may grow only half our own food needs but, right now, Britain requires some 70,000 seasonal workers to pick the fruit and veg sitting in farms across the country. Besides cutting the UK’s ‘food imports’ bill (£50bn/p.a) this is an essential part of feeding the public. If the government is looking to deploy the Army in the midst of the crisis, at least let them begin as a Land Army . . .
“Food security is not going to be delivered by any compact between government, the army and the big supermarkets. The alternative needs to be more local, accountable and inclusive. Huge numbers of small suppliers are currently left stranded by the closure of local cafes, hotels and restaurants. Huge numbers of vulnerable households can’t even get onto the telephone or internet queues for supermarket deliveries. This is the moment when Britain should give new powers to local authorities; to be the binding between local supply, local need and the networks of volunteers offering to bring the two together”.
Dr Wilson sums up: ‘There may be the seeds of some good things in this pandemic — a fairer society, with more time for family than for chasing money, a decline in environmental destruction — and any sweeping government intervention ought to try to nurture them”.
On BBC Radio 4 today it was reported that some supermarkets are limiting sales of fruit and vegetables.
A newspaper elaborates: “Morrisons and Tesco have limited the amount of lettuce and broccoli after flooding and snow hit farms in Spain. Shortages of other household favourites – including cauliflower, cucumbers, courgettes, oranges, peppers and tomatoes – are also expected. Prices of some veg has rocketed 40% due to the freak weather. Sainsburys admitted weather has also affected its stocks”.
HortiDaily reports on frost in Europe in detail (one of many pictures below) and the search for supplies from Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia.
A former Greenpeace Economist foresees these and more persistent problems in his latest book, Progressive Protectionism.
Listen to his ‘right on’ exposition of selling milk at below production costs here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04dqwyt
Because as the dairy industry declines and imports roll in at whatever cost it will be followed by a similar undercutting of
– not necessarily in that order.
Those who ignore the situation will live to regret it – in thrall to overseas suppliers of food, regardless of its quality and price.
And food producers: co-operate or go under – as unproductive parasites flourish!
“10 reasons we don’t need GM foods”, a new short report from genetic engineers Dr Michael Antoniou and Dr John Fagan, the authors of “GMO Myths and Truths”, is published today as a free download by the sustainability and science policy platform Earth Open Source.
Download short report:http://earthopensource.org/index.php/reports/10-reasons-we-don-t-need-gm-foods
Claire Robinson, third co-author of the new report, said:
“At just 11 pages plus references, ’10 reasons’ is designed for people who may not have the time to read ‘GMO Myths and Truths’, which extends to 330 pages. ’10 reasons’ is ideal for giving to friends, family, politicians, and journalists, when a longer document is not appropriate.
” ’10 reasons’ explains that GM crops do not increase yield potential or reduce pesticide use. Nor can they help us meet the challenges of climate change any better than existing non-GM crops, or deliver more nutritious foods. GM crops have been shown to have toxic effects on laboratory and farm animals.
“There is only one way in which GM crops outperform non-GM crops: they are easier to patent in a way that guarantees ownership not only of that GM plant variety but also all plants bred from it. This process enables consolidated ownership of the seed and food market by a few large companies on a scale that has never happened before.
“That is a recipe for loss of food sovereignty and security. It is the opposite to feeding the world – the line we are constantly fed to justify the introduction of GM crops.”
“10 reasons” is based on the extensive evidence collected in “GMO Myths and Truths”.
Download full report “GMO Myths and Truths” (2nd edition published 19 May 2014):
Contact Claire Robinson firstname.lastname@example.org
Unlike the Indian temple juggernaut which had only willing victims, the British juggernaut will roll along its hundred-metre wide track, destroying swathes of fertile land and damaging or demolishing cherished homes.
Producing food is not important?
At a time when there is increasing global and national awareness of the need for food security, the National Farmers Union estimates that 200 farms will be affected.
Corporate ‘landgrab’ now extends from the ‘global south’ to Britain
Packington Moor Farm, a fine brick Georgian farmhouse near Tamworth, Staffordshire is to be demolished and its land cut in half. The owners only heard about this plan on the internet.
The Bakers, whose land is to be cut in half, live in the charming village of Stoneleigh, Warwickshire. Mrs Baker asked: ‘How can they consider demolishing your business and your livelihood, move three generations of a family, and not contact you? We heard from a neighbouring farmer.’
Listed buildings treated with contempt
In all, 314 listed buildings, country cottages, Georgian farmhouses, medieval rectories and ancient manor houses will be demolished or seriously affected by vibration, noise and fumes if the high-speed project goes ahead.
And other species deemed less important than HS2 vested interests
Along the HS2 route, there are 43 statutory and non-statutory wildlife sites (48% of the 89 sites identified) in the Kenilworth and Southam Constituency alone. These include one Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), one local nature reserve, six local wildlife sites and numerous ancient woodlands. Location details are given on the website of the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust. A detailed review of the potential ecological impacts of HS2 in that area by the Trust’s Stephen Trotter can be read here.
An extract about the effect of its construction notes that it will “destroy all existing vegetation, any non-mobile species and physical structures (e.g. roosts, ponds, watercourses, burrows, setts, holts etc) used by species living in this zone. Mobile species will be displaced away from this zone and their survival will depend on the availability of suitable sites nearby.