The UK should protect its food supplies just as the country is defended from attack by its armed forces, celebrity farmer Jeremy Clarkson has said.
Clarkson was speaking at an event in Westminster hosted by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), which is calling on the government to commit to not let Britain’s self-sufficiency in food production slip below its current level of 60 per cent.
The NFU wants more British food in public sector catering such as schools and hospitals, action to increase home-grown produce and help for consumers to buy British through filters and better labelling of online groceries.
As a result, the TV presenter-turned-farmer said levels of self-sufficiency should be maintained to ensure food security, pointing to the concerns people had about shortages at the beginning of the pandemic.
He said the country has a Ministry of Defence so that if it was attacked it was able to defend itself.
“We can none of us see that happening, we can’t see the Germans coming across the Channel or the Chinese, but we still maintain a significant air force, army and navy,” Clarkson said.
“Surely if you’re going to maintain that level of defence to protect us, you would want to protect our food supply.”
He said 60 per cent self-sufficiency was “right at the bottom of the end of where you want to go, I think it should be much more like 80 per cent, we’re capable of it, we’ve got the right climate, we have the right soil, we could easily do it”.
He added: “It should be as much encouragement as possible from the g
government to the farmers to actually get it back up a bit.”
“It’s like saying if we had no army, and no navy and no air force, chances are we’re not going to get attacked – but we might.
“If you’re thinking about the country as a whole and looking after the people in it, you have to look after the farmers who provide the food.”
Clarkson suggested supermarkets could have pictures of how imported factory-farmed meat was produced alongside images of British-reared animals to encourage consumers to spend a bit more on good, homegrown food if they could.
He said the government’s drive to switch from EU subsidies to payments that provide “public money for public goods” was a meaningless slogan, as farmers had not been told what it is – and so they could not plan.
NFU president Minette Batters has also urged the government to deliver a comprehensive report on food security and take action to show it is serious about boosting sustainable food production.
“British farmers could increase the industry’s economic contribution and provide more nutritious, affordable, climate-friendly British food for UK shoppers and people across the world, all while bolstering domestic and global food security,” she suggested.
with PA Wires