Flooding highlights the need for food security

February 13, 2014

Peter Kendall

LAND BANK: NFU president Peter Kendall, who told the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee this week that land now underwater due to flooding must not be abandoned as it is needed for food security.

Back Out Bloxworth

PRICELESS ASSET: Despite an increasing population and infra-structure, productive land is needed to feed the country, says the NFU.

 

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HIGHER PRICES: Due to cattle and sheep not being able to be put out to grass and costs to help those with stock in flooded areas, prices for meat and milk may increase.

 

FLOODING in Dorset, Somerset and Hampshire will not lead to a short-term spike in food prices, say regional countryside organisations.

Food producers will be hoping that the flooded fields will drain off in a matter of weeks than months as scientific research suggests that lengthy exposure to water impacts soil aggregation but arable producers recovered well from last year’s floods.

Soil aggregation is an important soil attribute relating to the physical-chemical state of the soil and is one of the essential processes that determines soil quality. Loss of soil aggregation impacts agriculture by decreasing soil quality and crop production

The National Farmers Union say there will be some impact on livestock as they are reaching the time of year when they need to put be out to grass and much of the land is still under water so where animals have been trapped by water, they have been moved to land of other farmers and have been offered feed and bedding.

Farmers from outside the South West have rallied round to send fodder to Sedgemoor Livestock Market and Cannington Agricultural College as distribution points for those in urgent need.

They also say there should not be any significant increases in the price of cereals and vegetables but there may be some for meat and dairy products.

Regional spokesman David George said: “There is going to be an impact on livestock. This is just the time when they are put into the fields.

“The NFU has organised a regional set up of people who have fodder to spare and who can give it to those who need it now and for a few months into the future.

“Many farmers will have to re-seed the grass when the water has drained away. This is usually a once in a 100 years thing and we are not surprised it is upset the balance on the Somerset Levels.

“Grass can grow and survive under water for up to 21 days. Many fields were under water recovered well after being flooded last year.”

Mr George tried to reassure consumers that there will not be any immediate change in the price of a loaf of bread.

He said: “In the short-term there should not be any difference to what you pay in the shops. The price of a loaf contains 10p for the wheat and the costs of processing, packaging and transport.

“I would be very surprised if there was any effect on the shops. What is more concerning for us would be drought and the storms in America.”

NFU president Peter Kendall spoke to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee chaired by MP Anne Mackintosh on Wednesday 11 February and warned them that extreme weather and an expanding population meant agricultural land had to be protected.

He said: “Britain’s soils, seasonality and climate gives us the natural ingredients for a productive farming sector both now and in the medium as our climate becomes more unpredictable.

“Investment in science and knowledge transfer will be vital in helping us capitalise on these natural advantages and enabling UK farming to maximise its food-producing potential.

“We also need to create a positive, legislative environment supporting the agri-food sector so that farmers have the confidence to invest and can deal with unpredictable weather patterns, market volatility and any price fluctuations that may result.”

Mr George also backed up the comments of Mr Kendall on the need for government to understand abandoning land was not an option due to food security and more dependence on imported food would definitely lead to higher prices for consumers.

“We need to keep prime productive land and try to keep it in production rather than lose it to the weather – it is a question of food security and having a short, transparent supply chain.”

Mr George added that anyone wanting to make an urgent donation to help farmers affected by the flood can contact the Farm Community Network and Somerset Community Foundation’s flood relief fund, or for any other enquiries e-mail south.west@nfu.org.uk

Supermarket giants Tesco have a delegated number 0800 072 6684, which can be accessed too if anyone needs help.

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