NFU chief says food supply cannot be left to chance

Farmers' leader Peter Kendall has welcomed the thrust of Oxfam's report on the global food security challenge.

During his visit to the Suffolk Show, the National Farmers' Union president said: 'People are waking up to the messages that we've been giving for the last half a dozen years.

'We can't leave the challenge of feeding nine billion people to chance when you've got resource scarcity and climate change all staring us in the face.

'We know that there has been over the years a dramatic decline in research and development. We've butchered our research and development institutes in the UK.

'Governments thought that we could buy our food anywhere in the world. The UK used to be a global leader in agriculture technology: it's my ambition to regain that lead.

'We've got a brilliant example in research at the John Innes Centre [at Colney, near Norwich].

'The message that we as a farming industry have been trying to convey in recent years is starting to land.

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'I think the seriousness needs a global discussion and a realisation that we won't get productivity increases if prices remain rock bottom. We want farmers to be able to invest and plant confidently for the future, both in rich and poor countries.'

Mr Kendall said the European common agricultural policy (CAP) must re-focus on having a strong agricultural policy in the EU and not getting sidetracked into having an environmental, welfare or social policy – the real danger at present.

'We don't want green tape: we want improvements in technology and we want to do things in a smarter and more sustainable way – that's what a CAP should be driving at and not one which gives extra payments to small farmers in Romania and prevents big farmers in the UK investing in new reservoirs,' he said.

The Crop Protection Association (CPA) welcomed Oxfam's conclusions on the global food security challenge but warned against discounting the role of intensive, large-scale farming systems in meeting the world's future food needs.

The aid charity warned that the price of food could double by 2030 unless radical action were taken to change the global food system.

But CPA fears the Oxfam report is quick to dismiss the role of large-scale, 'industrialised' agriculture in meeting future food needs, instead focusing almost exclusively on efforts to increase the productive potential of small-scale producers in developing countries.

CPA chief executive Dominic Dyer said: 'All farmers, large and small, need to find sustainable ways to increase their production. We also need to reduce waste, improve information systems, trade policy and many other aspects, but the key lies in raising global agricultural productivity.'