UK grown veg could become more rare

High wheat prices are naturally enough encouraging UK farmers to switch more of their vegetable growing land over to wheat. Last years floods devastated certain farming areas with some broccoli growers going to the wall. More consumers want local veg but unless they’re prepared to pay more they’re not going to get it.

Unless prices paid to farmers increase by 30% during 2008 it is claimed the consumer will see less UK grown veg on the shelves for 2009 because farmers will switch away to other sources of income.

Both Gordon Brown and David Cameron have expressed their concern about our food security but what are they proposing to do? The free market is devastating a number of food sectors so should we return to the days of subsidies? ‘No’ says the president of the NFU, ‘let the market steer decision making’.

There are wider concerns for UK food security. East Anglia grows 37% of UK outdoor vegetables but lies below sea level. If storm surges start to break the levies more frequently this supply area could be threatened.

We need a considered and coordinated approach from informed agencies to bring together a more sustainable plan for UK agriculture. We don’t want to return to the days of high subsidy but, there does need to be a less chaotic approach than that of the market as the only influence on decisions.

Source: BBC4, Farming Today.

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10 Responses to UK grown veg could become more rare

  1. Dan says:

    I think James Lovelock would say that food security is pretty much the #1 issue we should be worrying about. Any economist would tell us that subsidies make everyone poorer and distribute the losses in a regressive way – but part of me sides with Lovelock and the prospect of lower yeilds combined with increasing dependency on exports is quite scary. The first issue is european law, of course – and the second is that growing food in the UK is often more energy intensive than growing it abroad + transporting it.

  2. matt says:

    This from the beeb today;

    The new chief science adviser, Professor John Beddington said, ‘A world food crisis can be expected in the coming decades as our demand for food outstrips our ability to produce it’.

    Added to this, efforts to tackle climate change – by using biofuels instead of fossil fuels – are taking more land away from food production.

    Professor Tim Lang of City University has welcomed the chief scientist’s effort to draw attention to a relatively neglected issue.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7282196.stm

  3. matt says:

    And highlights from the Times article;

    *Population levels are growing so fast already that an extra six million people are born every month.

    *(US) Farmers planted 90.5 million acres in 2007, 15 per cent more than a year before.

    *Professor Beddington said that the prospect of food shortages over the next 20 years was so acute that politicians, scientists and farmers must begin to tackle it immediately.

    *Scientists say that intense dry spells will become more frequent over the next century. The supply of water will be put under further pressure because of the increased number of people who need it, not only to drink but to keep their crops alive. The production of a tonne of wheat, for example, requires 50 tonnes of water.

    *Deforestation has been calculated to account for about 18 per cent of world greenhouse gas emissions and Professor Beddington said that to destroy rainforests in order to grow biofuel crops was “insane”. He added: “Some of the biofuels are hopeless, in the sense that the idea that you cut down rainforest to actually grow biofuels seems profoundly stupid.”

    I like his straight talking. Thank god someone senior has started to drive home these points.

  4. earthpal says:

    Another interesting article to throw in here (sorry) re. the population worry:

    http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2008/01/29/population-bombs/

  5. inel says:

    No wonder allotments are increasing in popularity! With news like this, it is easy to understand why people are signing up here.

  6. Dan says:

    You guys probably saw this in the guardian yesterday (you strike me as guaridan readers 😉 – thought it was quite relevant – http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/mar/07/scienceofclimatechange.food?gusrc=rss&feed=environment

  7. matt says:

    inel, good useful link. From what I heard from one friend’s experience of running an allotment it can be quite stressful (contrary to what the govt’s website says)! Other allotment holders can be quite territorial and surrounding area can be uninviting. But hey, I do live in London so allotments are in all sorts of areas.

    Ten years ago it wasn’t too difficult to get an allotment and the rent was low. That has all changed now!

  8. matt says:

    Hi Dan

    International Herald Tribune for me, otherwise I pretty much read any broadsheet as they seem to cover the same news (which tends to be 24hrs old thanks to BBC News 24 and online news.

    Beddington certainly has a lot of issues to grapple with. I think he’ll say yes to GM, nuclear and the tidal barrage. But he is only the advisor, not the decision maker.

  9. matt says:

    EP, another good link. There’s lots out there to digest!

    These highlights caught my eye;

    * As the equations produced by Professor Roderick Smith of Imperial College have shown, this means that in the 21st Century we will have used 16 times as many economic resources as human beings have consumed since we came down from the trees(7).

    *The supply of meat has already tripled since 1980: farm animals now take up 70% of all agricultural land (19) and eat one third of the world’s grain(20). In the rich nations we consume three times as much meat and four times as much milk per capita as the people of the poor world(21).

    His summary;

    *While human population growth is one of the factors that could contribute to a global food deficit, it is not the most urgent.

    None of this means that we should forget about it. Even if there were no environmental pressures caused by population growth, we should still support the measures required to tackle it: universal sex education, universal access to contraceptives, better schooling and opportunities for poor women. Stabilising or even reducing the human population would ameliorate almost all environmental impacts. But to suggest, as many of my correspondents do, that population growth is largely responsible for the ecological crisis is to blame the poor for the excesses of the rich.

    I’m not sure why writers/commentators choose to talk about population vs consumption rates. To me they are both very important regards impacts on our surrounding (and distant) environments.

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