Serving the Farming Industry across East Anglia for 35 Years
"It's often been said that people with full stomachs fail to realise the importance of farmers. Only when people go hungry – or can't... Time for the government to back Britain’s farmers

It’s often been said that people with full stomachs fail to realise the importance of farmers. Only when people go hungry – or can’t get the food they want – do they start to take a keen interest in where it comes from.

The media furore which followed last month’s tomato shortage is a perfect example. All of a sudden, consumers wanted to know why supermarket shelves were empty – and when they would be full again.

The government, of course, blamed someone else. Or rather said the shortage was due to bad weather in Morocco and Spain – both countries which supply the UK with tomatoes during the cold winter months.

That’s true – at least partially. But like many things the government says, it is more complicated than that. And the reasons for the shortage of tomatoes, cucumbers and other crops on supermarket shelves, deserve closer scrutiny.

We could, of course, grow salad crops all-year-round in this country. But gas costs have soared over the past year, making it too expensive to heat glasshouses and still make a profit at the sort of prices consumers are willing to pay for fresh produce.

The NFU has been warning for months that this winter would be particularly precarious. Not because of the weather, but because rampant agri-inflation has seen input costs increase far higher than any increase in the value of farm output.

Many farmers have long suspected that senior politicians don’t take food security and self-sufficiency seriously enough. Now growers and livestock producers could see those fears become reality. Rather than backing British farmers, it seems the government would prefer to import food from abroad.

Witness how far farming is down the pecking order when in UK trade deals with other countries. Even former Defra secretary George Eustice has conceded that the recent trade deal Australia had given too much awary in return for too little.

These are uncertain times. If the government really wants to maintain UK food security, it should back British farmers and ensure they are able to produce food profitably at a price consumers can afford – not rely on cheap imports.

Johann Tasker

Editor