On 18th September 2018 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, received a written answer to a question on food security and farm payments after Brexit.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, what steps they are taking to ensure sufficient levels of food security following any change in payments to UK farmers after Brexit.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble: The Government understands the importance of providing stability to farmers as we leave the European Union. Our Agriculture Bill will support farmers over a seven year transition from the Common Agricultural Policy to a new system underpinned by the principle of public money for public goods. Farmers produce world-class food and we are seeking new powers in legislation to help farmers get a fairer return from the supply chain. We pledge to continue the same cash total in funds for farm support for the duration of this Parliament.
Our aim is to boost UK productivity by developing targeted transitional policies to reflect our farmers’ needs. It is, however, important for the UK to take a more balanced approach to productivity targets and incorporate other issues, such as; provenance, animal welfare, and environmental costs alongside nutritional provision.
The Government views food security in its broadest sense – taking into consideration the global context, the UK supply chain as a whole and the consumer perspective. Self-sufficiency is not in itself an indicator of food security. Increased self-sufficiency in indigenous products would not necessarily insulate us from shocks to the system; for example, weather and disease can affect the harvests and yields.
The UK’s current production to supply ratio is 60% for all food and 75% for indigenous type foods. This has remained steady over the last decade and is not low in the context of the past 150 years. In the 1930s, for example, the overall rate was between 30% and 40%, while in the late 1950s this had risen to just over 50%. The UK has historically been a net importer of food and sources produce from a diverse range of stable countries and this will continue once we leave the EU.