UK ‘Dangerously Reliant’ on Food Imports, Must Become Self Sufficient: Bow Group

Seasonal farmhands from Poland work in the fields picking lettuce, in Meteren, northern France on June 6, 2013. AFP PHOTO /PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP via Getty Images)
PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP via Getty Images

The conservative Bow Group has exposed the risks that the United Kingdom faces if either food production or imports fall in the event of another world-wide crisis like the coronavirus pandemic, telling the government that the country must look towards self-sufficiency.

Britain’s oldest conservative think tank revealed that currently, more than half, 50.07 per cent, of all of the UK’s food comes from overseas, but by counting the raw ingredients as opposed to final products, that estimate jumps to as much as 80 per cent.

“If UK imports fall by just 13 per cent and domestic production also falls by 13 per cent annually, very realistic figures in the context of coronavirus or any other global crisis, British people will shockingly be at real risk of running out of food,” Bow Group Chairman Ben Harris-Quinney said in a statement seen by Breitbart London.

Mr Harris-Quinney continued that is was “very likely” that Britons would have to cut down on “many current staples” and “the cost of many types of food would skyrocket”, even with a smaller reduction of five to ten per cent of imports and domestic production.

The conservative think tank called on the government to “take urgent action to prepare for such a crisis and restructure”, and recommended measures including cutting food waste and re-routing “all current food exports to the domestic market”. If such actions were taken,  the think tank believes the country “would potentially be able to provide the population with 100 per cent of all of its most basic subsistence food needs”.

Long-term reforms suggested to make the British economy more food-production self-reliant include a ‘Land Army’ scheme with students incentivised to pick in the summer months in exchange for loan alterations as well as encouraging the fit but long-term unemployed to pick. Other recommendations are a land investment scheme, more abattoirs, agricultural modernisation, and encouraging and subsidising British producers that focus on the foreign market to pivot towards UK sales.

“We call on the government to urgently review the self-sufficiency of our food supply network, and increase stockpiling to cope with potential supply chain interruptions in the future that are now very foreseeable in the context of coronavirus,” the Bow Group said.

The report came after another study revealed that the UK was reliant on Spain and the Netherlands for more than 60 per cent of the country’s fruits and vegetables. The fragility of this supply has recently been highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic, with countries like Spain being some of the worst-affected.

Mr Harris-Quinney had raised the issue of Britain’s dependence on Spain for foodstuff, writing on Monday: “Some of the worst-hit European nations — especially Spain — provide a significant amount of our fruit and vegetable imports, meaning we will almost definitely see imports fall and food prices rise in the coming months and years.”

Self-sufficiency and international supply chains have been the subject of much conversation in recent months following the outbreak of Chinese coronavirus. In early March, former international trade secretary Dr Liam Fox said the pandemic had revealed the fragility of globalisation. Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said weeks later that the epidemic had exposed the West’s dependence on China in its supply chains after the UK realised it was massively dependent on China for imports of medical and personal protective equipment (PPE).

After several reports of faulty coronavirus antibody tests and potentially deadly ventilators — originating from China — and amidst rising security concerns over allowing Huawei to build part of the UK’s 5G network, the government will undertake a review of the country’s reliance on foreign imports.

“Project Defend” will test the economy’s resilience and expose the country’s supply chain vulnerabilities, specifically for “essential supplies” that are strategic for national security. The review was ordered after it was revealed the UK was dependent on China for 71 “critical goods” categories including pharmaceuticals and electronics.

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