Stamford and Bourne MP says support for Lincolnshire farmers is vital
One of the consequences of both the pandemic and the war in Ukraine is that countries around the world, including our own, are re-assessing the resilience of their supply chains, writes Stamford and Bourne MP Gareth Davies (Con).
Food security is something that many of us care about, making sure that we produce enough food to live on without the need for mass imports. Our reliance on imports has been demonstrated through the fact that 30 per cent of the world’s supply of wheat comes from Ukraine, and 20 per cent of the world’s nitrogen fertiliser comes from Russia.
Many agricultural inputs - such as manufactured fertiliser - depend on gas, and prices are therefore closely correlated. The price of fertiliser was already high post-pandemic, but the war in Ukraine has pushed prices higher still. Livestock sectors like poultry and pigs have also seen their feed costs rise in line with the price of wheat.
As a result, we as a country are now rightly looking at ways to increase supply chain resilience. Ultimately, while we already have a high level of food security when compared to other countries, we should support even more production of food and energy here in the UK, and our area has a big role to play in that effort.
One in every 20 acres of farmland in England is found here in Lincolnshire. On that land, according to the Greater Lincolnshire Enterprise Partnership, we grow 30 per cent of the nation’s vegetables and produce 18 per cent of the poultry. The total output is worth more than £2 billion and provides 24 per cent of local jobs.
We want to see our brilliant Lincolnshire farmers do better yet, and it is my hope that the new national Food Strategy, announced this week, will help. It promises £600 million for farm-based innovation, new visas to attract workers, and a commitment that 50 per cent of food purchased by the public sector ought to be produced locally.
This month also sees the launch of the ‘Adding Value’ fund, which offers grants - between £25,000 and £300,000 - to support farmers as they process, diversify and add-value to their products. Activities covered by the fund include the purchase of equipment for ‘second stage’ processing of grain, such as colour sorting and blending; processing new products such as flax and hides; and purchasing equipment for retailing. Applications for the funding will remain open until July 21, 2022.
Just yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet some of our farmers and the National Farmers Union (NFU) in Bourne with my colleague, the leader of the House of Commons, Mark Spencer MP.
In that meeting, just as I do at every other opportunity I get, I offered my continuing support to farmers. They’re the ones who feed us, after all.
If we can bolster our domestic food production, it will better insulate consumers for future price and supply shocks, and so we must have a renewed focus on that in the coming weeks and months.