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UK Food Production

Volume 712: debated on Thursday 28 April 2022

9. What estimate he has made of the level of food that will be produced by UK farmers in each of the next three years. (906649)

Fortunately, we in this country have a high degree of food security. We currently produce about 60% of all the food we need and 74% of all the food we can grow or rear here. We monitor the level of production extremely carefully and, as the Secretary of State said earlier, published a detailed report at the end of last year.

As the shadow Minister referred to earlier, last autumn CF Fertilisers in my constituency stopped production because of high energy costs, and it has not reopened because the demand for its products simply is not there. It really is a concern that farmers are not putting food into the ground because of the high prices. I wonder what the knock-on effect will be in the next two or three years, particularly on availability and cost for consumers as well as my constituents’ jobs. We have had a list of things that the Government are doing, but surely it says something that even now, with rocketing fuel prices and food prices, there is simply not enough demand for that factory to reopen. Does the Minister agree that more must be done?

I chaired a fertiliser taskforce several weeks ago, and the strong message from Government, those who work in the industry and those who supply fertiliser to the industry was that we should have confidence in this year’s fertiliser supply, buy fertiliser and use it as required. We will continue to work together to monitor the situation.

I associate myself with the Secretary of State’s comments on Lord Plumb, who for over 70 years really fought for agriculture and food in this country.

Further to the great question from my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Dr Hudson), the Agriculture Act 2020 requires the Government to conduct and assess our national food security every five years. The Minister has said that that will be reduced to every three years. In 2020, after food supply chain challenges arose during the pandemic, the Select Committee recommended that the Government commit to producing a report every year and, with the situation in Ukraine, global gas prices, pressures on food supply, severe labour shortages and the high price of fertiliser, that is more important than ever. Will my hon. Friend therefore reconsider producing an annual report?

My hon. Friend knows that food is always at the very top of my agenda, and the nation’s food security is as well. He and I have discussed the right frequency for that report’s sequencing many times. It is a substantial piece of academic work, and I was proud of the version that we published at the end of last year. We have always said that we will undertake more frequent reporting if that is required, but I think that, for that serious piece of work, the three-year timescale is about right.