Friday, August 16, 2013


If every country in this planet wants to attain self sufficiency in food, is it technically and logistically achievable? Such lofty ideals are good to be proclaimed while the ground reality will tell a different story. Food pundits and policy experts tend to debate endlessly whether this planet will have the capacity to produce sufficient foods to meet the minimum food needs of every denizen if the population grows at the current pace but there is no unanimity on this issue with many predicting food famine and deprivation in in a few decades' time from now because Mother Earth cannot support huge jump in production even if there are some dramatic technological breakthroughs in the coming years. GMO lobbyists have their own answer and they aver that gene manipulating technology can increase food production very significantly though there is very little hard evidence to support their over optimism! Set against this bleak scenario, the lamenting of British policy makers about the dependence of this country on imported foods is rather amusing. Here is a take on this new fear being expressed in the UK regarding its food future. 

"Falling self-sufficiency means Britain produces less than two-thirds (62%) of the food the country consumes, down from 75% in 1991, the National Farmers' Union said. If all the food produced in the UK in a year were stored and eaten from January 1, the "cupboard" would be bare by August 14, the NFU has calculated. Farmers are calling for support from politicians, the public and food industry to back British farming and help them produce more. NFU president Peter Kendall said the UK could not simply go around the world chasing the cheapest deal on food. "To think that today's date would signal the time when our domestic food supply runs out is frankly alarming. It says to me that we must act," he said. "Right across the board farmers have a fantastic natural capacity to produce more British food, given the right market signals and the confidence to invest. We have the right technologies to produce more from less, with precision farming helping to target fertiliser and crop protection products within centimetres. "Laser technology can even pinpoint an individual weed, improving accuracy and efficiency. Crops grown under cover help to lengthen the season for our British fruits. "But there is more to do to empower our farmers to enable them to make the most of our natural resources and feed our growing nation." He urged the Government to help create an environment where farming businesses could invest, to address market failures and iron out price volatility to ensure the food chain can increase supplies".

It was assumed that the World has become a village with no borders under liberalized economic regimes and free trade protocols worked under the aegis of WTO. If this is really so, why should the UK government worry about import of foods from other countries with surplus production? Is it because of fear of inferior and relatively unsafe foods which may find their way into the country? With hardly any surplus land for agriculture how can a geographically small country like the UK can expand cultivation? Talking about technological innovations there is a limit for achieving incremental production and putting in place farmer supporting policy initiatives is unlikely to achieve much. Probably the UK must think in terms of encouraging their farmers to go out to countries where land utilization is relatively low due to many reasons and lease out land, deploy most productive modern production technologies and bring the same for the consumption of its citizens. If India can do this why not the UK. The inter dependence of countries on each other cannot be wished away under noble patriotic fervor. As for safety adequate mechanisms are available to ensure the same with sound management systems and intense vigilance. 


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