This week I held a 90-minute parliamentary debate on the subject of food security, about having the food we need at a price we can afford. Living in West Cornwall we can appreciate the contribution our farmers make and the vital role they have. They preserve, maintain and protect our countryside and create jobs in farming, food processing, engineering and tourism etc. Most importantly they feed the nation.
Maintaining food security has long been a concern of mine and I believe it is an issue we need to take much more seriously. Conflict around the world affects food security; and population growth leaves more mouths to feed. It is in our interest that we produce as much food as possible. If we want to ensure that good quality food is available to us at a reasonable price then we must support our farmers.
In the past year (and more) our farmers have had a particularly difficult time. For many, the price they are being paid does not cover the cost of production. If this continues we will see farms disappear and less food produced. We need to create an environment where farmers are consistently paid a fair price so that they have confidence to invest in their business, employ the workers they need and produce the food and drink to meet UK demand and beyond.
Security of income will also help when unseasonal weather affects their productivity (which has also added to farmers' woes this winter).
How we achieve this is complex and currently UK food producers supply just over 60% of the food we consume. The commitment to our farmers by British consumers is needed today as much as at any time in our history. However, what consumers need is absolute confidence that when we shop and buy 'British' we are buying something produced in the UK and that the farmer receives a fair price.
The Government has a responsibility to help create this confidence and this week's debate on food security was intended to highlight the need for clear information to help consumers support British farmers.
Member of Parliament for St Ives