NFU President rejects increasing dependence on imports

The National Farmers Union [NFU] President, Peter Kendall, is approaching the position advocated by Professor of Food Policy Tim Lang & LWM’s co-founder Colin Hines: a ‘humane, progressive alternative to free trade’ which will deliver long-term food security, address the global environmental crisis and the plight of the poor.

They set out their thinking at length in a book which gives the background to a later work advocating localisation.

Should we allow our agriculture to decline and then expect the rest of the world to feed us?

Anna Blackaby [Birmingham Post 17.2.11] wrote two articles on the recent NFU conference, but the more significant and controversial contribution is not available online. A later search found a bolder approach by the Guardian’s Fiona Harvey.

Both reported President Peter Kendall’s rejection of the suggestion that the UK could rely on global markets for food and his defence of the food export bans that some countries put in place following record rises in food prices this year:

“If we’re going to have a debate about morality, I honestly believe that a country short of food trying to protect its own people’s supplies by banning grain exports is nothing compared to rich countries allowing their agriculture to decline and then expecting the rest of the world to feed them,” he said.

Should the tariff/subsidy-ridden, maximum-profit-seeking ‘free’ market rule?

The environment minister, Caroline Spelman, earlier said it should be illegal to halt food exports even at times of national crisis and that “no country should be allowed to interfere with the global food commodity market”. 

Or should a better strategy be planned?

Pointing out that rising food prices, a growing population and increasing pressure on natural resources mean the UK is in urgent need of a food strategy, Mr Kendall asked  “Where is the food plan? Where is the food white paper that reflects the challenges?”

Hines and Lang look forward to the time when the ‘beggar my neighbour’ WTO General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs [GATT] is replaced by a ‘better my neighbour’ policy: the General Agreement for Sustainable Trade[GAST].