Make the most of farming

18 February, 2008

Farmers and the government have a shared moral responsibility to make the most of the potential of British farming, in a world increasingly threatened by food shortages and climate change.

That was the message from NFU president Peter Kendall in his opening speech at the NFU's Centenary Conference in London today, Monday.

Kendall said worldwide agricultural output would need to double or treble in the next 40 years to feed a fast-growing and increasingly affluent world population.

Yet the scope to bring more land into production was limited, and productivity would inevitably be hampered by water shortages and climatic extremes caused by climate change.

As a country threatened less than most by both global warming and water shortages, the UK owed it to the rest of the world to make the most of its productive capacity, he argued.

He said: "Production in this country is going to be very valuable - not only for us, but for the world as a whole.

"And when I read Goldman Sachs saying recently "vulnerable regions of the world face the risk of famine in the next three years", it seems to me that developing the agricultural potential of this country to its fullest, is actually a moral issue.

"We have an economic duty to the citizens of Britain to optimise our production of food and bio-energy, so as to secure their supplies and act as a check on food price volatility.

"But over and above that, as a relatively favoured country, we have a moral duty to the citizens of the world, to make our optimum contribution to global supplies of food and bio-energy, but also, as I will outline later, to the science of that sustainable future. Food security is a worldwide concern. Our part in it needs to be seen in a worldwide context."

Kendall stressed this was not an argument for subsidies or greater Government intervention in the market place. What the industry needed was for the Government to wake up to the fact that productive farming matters, and act accordingly.

The NFU president laid down five shared challenges for industry and government:

Recognising the importance of science in meeting the production challenges of the future;

Investment, so as to meet production demands at the same time as reducing farming's environmental footprint;

Creating a sustainable and secure supply chain

Joined up thinking to provide better regulation

and a simpler, more common CAP.

Kendall closed his speech by calling for the government to take action to allow Britain's farmers and growers to fulfil their potential:

"The challenges we face are now are global and they are serious. We are up for them, but if we are to make the most of our potential - as morally, I believe we must - then we need a Government that encourages and enables, not one that hampers or frustrates. And we need that commitment in actions, not just words," he said.





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