FOOD SHORTAGES: THE NIGHTMARE IS JUST BEGINNING
Renewable energy, the supply chain and the war in Ukraine: why this is the perfect storm for British farming and the UK’s food production
By Laura Berrill
IT MAY not seem like it when you walk round your supermarket but food shortages are coming – with many farmers warning of a lack of basic goods such as milk and bread.
Hidden in plain sight are Government measures to reduce incentives for farmers to grow crops and, much like everything else right now, spiralling cost of fertilisers – which will cause a lack of food for poultry and livestock.
Most of us with any grasp of history will know about the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign pushed during the Second World War, the Land Girls and that, in the post-war years, houses were built with larger gardens so families could grow their own food.
Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have lived in a house with a big garden, half of which was dedicated to growing fruit and vegetables. We grew and ate our own produce as much as we could.
But just last October, more than 54,000 members of the public signed a letter sent to Defra Secretary of State, George Eustice, calling for a commitment to not let Britain’s food production slip below its current level of 60 per cent – although some say that it is already closer to 40 per cent.
Minette Batters, the president of the National Farmers’ Union, said of the letter: “This should send a very strong signal to Government on how highly the British public value quality, sustainably produced British food and the importance of having a resilient British food and farming sector.
“In 1984, the UK’s food self-sufficiency was 78 per cent. In 2021 it was 60 per cent. Through this letter, farmers and the public alike are calling on the Government to take immediate action and commit to not allowing our self-sufficiency levels to fall any further and take every opportunity to increase them.”
In the March 2022 edition of Farmer & Grower, Batters also wrote: “For four years, I have been told by this Government that food is not a public good. All I can say to that is, for the rest of us it’s up there with oxygen.”
In recent years the renewable green energy push, mainly in the western world, has gone into overdrive. Just last summer, its leaders self-congratulated each other on the ‘success’ of COP26 in Glasgow, mingling with elbow-bumps (oh, hold on, no, just full-on hugs), while global mass polluters such as China and India watched on from the sidelines and continued to dig for coal.
At the same time, there have been increasing supply chain issues, affected by the pandemic, cyber-attacks, workforce shortages in picking, packing and the distribution of food and now the war in Ukraine. Add to that the rising cost of farmland and the ever-increasing need for housing, which is eating into green spaces.
So what does the Government, which also last year for the first time had to report on Britain’s food security as part of the new Agricultural Act, do in response?
They pay productive and successful farm owners hundreds of thousands of pounds to put solar panels on fertile land.
I refer to a story run on the BBC website, which is now a couple of years old. Daventry District Council approved plans for the farm, which would span 11 fields. The parish councils involved had strongly objected to the plans by Lightrock Power, which would include a 23 metre-high substation tower. The vote was approved by just eight votes to six.
The farm owner is reportedly being paid several hundred thousand pounds to give up the farm to the project.
The land has also been plagued by flooding due to local authority inaction on dredging. Solar panels on the land will only exacerbate this problem. But of course, the flooding will be attributed to the climate ‘crisis’.
It is thought that the Australian-UK free-trade deal struck last summer will threaten further the ability for UK farmers to be competitive and self-sufficient. This, coupled with the Government’s domestic rewilding scheme, which will see farmers given taxpayer’s cash to open nature recovery projects on their land, plus the renewable energy incentives already mentioned, is the perfect storm.
Finally, we have the soaring costs of fertilisers as a direct result of their mass production in Russia and Ukraine.
“Our farmers can’t see much of a future and have seen this coming for a while. This is not just because of Ukraine, although the situation there is now making matters worse,” said Venetia Carpenter, who is from an extended farming family.
“They are having to diversify to make ends meet. Whereas Brexit was meant to support more self-sufficiency for this country it has directly gone the other way. Now we have them being paid large sums to put solar panels on their land all in the name of net zero. There’s no such thing as net zero when it comes to farming and food production and we are left having to desperately try to protect our domestic food industry. Plus, the deal with Australia will affect the climate negatively anyway, as we are transporting all this produce for thousands of miles.”
As a response to what she sees as a very real looming crisis, Venetia has set up an awareness campaign, which involves people of all backgrounds and in different jobs – not just politics and farming – to find ways of raising all these serious concerns to the general public and mainstream media and then take appropriate actions with farming unions.
The reason for this, Venetia added, is because there is so little awareness among the public and in the media, as well as a sense of denial in the farming community.
The group, called Feed the UK, has started to meet regularly and is looking at the many problems facing the UK food production sector. This includes the phasing out of Government incentives for farmers to grow crops, the spiralling cost of fertilisers which will result in not just less crop production, but a lack of food for poultry and livestock, and busting the public perception that all landowning farmers are very wealthy.
She added: “It may come down to farmers stopping following all the Government instructions and regulations and following common law, so we can feed our people ourselves in the near and more distant future.”
Crick and Yelvertoft solar farm given planning permission - BBC News
Lump Sum Payment Scheme for retiring farmers opens in April | Eastern Daily Press (edp24.co.uk)
Let them eat cake!
With food shortages/food inflation and the increase in gas/electricity costs, public awareness will increase rapidly starting 1st April. I believe there will be large demonstrations which will alter the direct of “net zero”.