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Food security on the agenda at NFU / Farm Africa event

24 January 2017

Food security on the agenda at NFU / Farm Africa event

Global food security and the growing need to invest in sustainable supply chains were in the spotlight this afternoon at a discussion event convened by the NFU and Farm Africa.

Speakers included James Wharton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development, Minette Batters, Deputy President of the NFU, Tim Smith, Group Quality Director of Tesco, and Richard Macdonald and Nicolas Mounard, Chair and CEO respectively of Farm Africa.

James Wharton outlined the challenges the world faces in feeding a growing population, but highlighted the opportunities for trade this presents for farmers worldwide:

"Over the next 20 to 30 years, the population of Africa is going to double. One in four people in
Africa is under-nourished; they don’t have the food security that we take for granted in this country. At the same time, the food economy between now and 2030 could go from just over $300 million in size to a predicted and projected $1 trillion in size.

"This represents a huge challenge, which is important to us: to support Africa in increasing its food security, increasing its yields and learning the lessons that we have known for so long in advanced agricultural economies in the west. It also presents a huge opportunity to bolster trade, strengthen ties, to build closer links with countries with which we have great historic ties and build on those ties to the benefit of the UK, to benefit those countries and their economies, and the people that live there."

Minette Batters and Nicolas Mounard also emphasised how population growth is making food security an ever-pressing issue. 

Mr Mounard said: “British self-sufficiency has fallen from 78% to 60% over the last 30 years and is projected to fall to under 50% by by 2040, meaning that British and African farmers actually face a similar challenge: growing more and growing better. The development community has always been divided between those who favour the develop of strong commercial agriculture and those who prioritise subsistence agriculture. At Farm Africa, we believe both must be addressed simultaneously.

"We believe the private sector has a massive role to play in linking farmers with long-term sustainable markets. That's what we're doing with the support of DfID in Ethiopia through our BRACED programme that facilitates access to finance for farmers to move from a low input-low output model to a high input-high output model."

Ms Batters said: “The link between the NFU and Farm Africa has always existed and the work both organisations are doing to increase food security, both at home and abroad, is so important. Farms all around the world share many of the same challenges and food security remains at the top of that list. 

“The NFU is thought of as working within the domestic market but our involvement within the World Farming Organisation ensures we have a voice on how farms across the globe can solve our global challenges. It was encouraging to hear from speakers today, including retailers and government, that they are fully committed to international development in agriculture now and in the future.”

Tim Smith reaffirmed Tesco's commitment to working in partnership to tackle food security: "Fifty years ago commentators said it would be impossible to feed the population we have now. And yet between everybody working in collaboration and partnership up and down the supply chain those naysayers have been proved wrong. And it’s not just hope and crossing our fingers that will get us to the position of being able to give everybody a fair reward for what they produce but also to ensure that everybody has a sustainable, healthy, affordable diet.”

The joint event held by the NFU and Farm Africa was attended by politicians, corporations across the supply chain and UK farming representatives.