The invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces has brought home to many people the fragility of our “Food Security” here in the UK. It has been bad for decades, and getting worse for many years, but it is now starting to look critical to our continued survival as an independent nation.
Russia and Ukraine together make up around 30% of global wheat exports, 19% of exported corn and 80% of exports of sunflower oil. This will inevitably lead to a shortage of basic foods.
Added to this is the massive increase in fertilizer and fuel costs, which together add up to big increases in the cost of food production. So why are the University of Reading prepared to sell off productive farm land at a time when we need it for growing food more than ever?
“Landowners are pocketing billions of pounds of profit every year just for getting planning permission, which raises prices and makes it harder than ever to buy land for new social housing, according to the Centre for Progressive Policy and the National Housing Federation.
A new report shows that landowners in England made more than £13 billion in profit in 2016/17 alone. In 2014/15, the figure was £9 billion. This means that profits have increased by around £4 billion in only two years.
Landowners’ total profits are more than the global profits of Amazon, McDonald’s and Coca Cola combined. Meanwhile, in the UK, the six biggest energy suppliers made a combined profit of £1 billion in 2017, while the country’s biggest housebuilder, Barratt Developments, made £835.5 million in profit.”
Ok, so that is what we are up against. Big bucks for a few landowners and housebuilders. But what is “Food Security” and why might it be important to all of us? This report is from the Parliamentary Library: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/food-security-what-is-it-and-how-is-it-measured/
“The UK is not self-sufficient in food production; it imports 48% of the total food consumed and the proportion is rising. Therefore, as a food-trading nation, the UK relies on both imports and a thriving agricultural sector to feed itself and drive economic growth.
Food security is a global issue, but for many people it is also a very immediate concern. Households in the UK want to have access to affordable, nutritious food, while governments want to ensure access to sufficient and safe food. Meanwhile global issues such as climate change, trade and conflict are challenges to the world’s ability to feed a growing population.
Self-sufficiency exists when a country can source the goods it needs without having to rely on imports. UK self-sufficiency has been declining for the past 30 years. But producing everything domestically does not always increase food security. It is a balancing act: a completely self-sufficient country would be vulnerable to events at home like adverse weather. Equally too much reliance on a few specific imports can leave a country exposed to international disruption”.
So what can be done about our Food Security needs? Here are some thoughts from New Food Magazine: https://www.newfoodmagazine.com/article/130750/rural-living-food-security/
“For those living in a rural location, the opportunity to grow fruit and vegetables in allotments, gardens and other accessible land not only gives people a fresh supply of food when they need it, but also a chance to be part of something bigger — helping to increase food security.
To grow fruit and vegetables, ample space and good quality soil are required. Although it might not be possible to grow bananas or pineapples due to average UK temperatures, apples, pears and strawberries can be on the menu.
In the world of vegetables, the humble potato is a popular choice for growing on home soil. Versatile as chips, roast potatoes and mash, an ample supply of spuds whenever you need them is a great way to reduce the reliance on farmer and supermarket supplies.
In fact, everything from chilli peppers to radishes can be grown at home, giving people in rural areas a wide variety of vegetables to choose from. To help people learn how to grow their own, the Royal Horticultural Society has an A-to-Z list of fruit and vegetables on their website, as well as guides on how to grow them”.
The central premise around which green4grow was originally built is that green fields, notably those at Hall Farm but also any and all green fields across the country, should be used for growing things. The benefits of this are many, not just greater food security; Enhanced bio-diversity, better carbon capture, improved mental health, connected communities and life changing educational opportunities to name but a few more. Sadly, short sightedness and greed look set to win again:
“We've finished consulting on a revised growth strategy for our Local Plan Update, which will outline where new housing and other forms of development - including ample community infrastructure - should go until 2038.
Many thanks to everyone who shared their views on the proposal, which includes a garden village of about 4,500 homes at Hall Farm/Loddon Valley between Shinfield, Arborfield and Sindlesham, as well as about 800 homes within the existing South Wokingham major development plus 2,700 or so across smaller sites.
We'll go through feedback and make some amendments, subject to a range of conditions including national planning policy, then put a revised proposal before full council over the summer for another public consultation in the autumn. This will go to a planning inspector, along with your comments, for independent examination”.
The above is from Wokingham Borough Council in the latest edition of “Arborfield Community News”. Some amendments are not what is needed here. What is needed is vision, imagination, and a serious commitment to fighting climate change and dealing with national food security.
To quote Sir John Redwood M.P. “Glad to hear the government promoting more investment in fruit and vegetable growing at home. Please get on with it and make it happen. We need to cut the food miles and the imports.” https://twitter.com/johnredwood/status/1499653274512801792
The clue is in the name: Hall Farm is first and foremost, a farm. It should remain a farm.