36 Tory MPs have written to the Prime Minister urging the government to repatriate the EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP), worth about £3bn, and redirect these funds ‘in favour of paying farmers for delivering services for the environment and public good’. Among these MPs are members of the environmental audit select committee, which is probably why they consider the environment to be more important than feeding the nation.
The NFU, an organisation of which I am a member, but not a fan, is trying to make the point that the food and farming industry, worth £108bn a year, has the potential to substantially increase this figure, with the right support.
They have written to DEFRA secretary Andrea Leadsom, warning her of the consequences of ignoring food security. Minette Batters, deputy president, said “we are an island nation with an expanding population, and it would be sheer lunacy to not have a shared ambition for securing our own food”.
Failure to reverse the UK’s long-term decline in self-sufficiency in food, currently at 60%, would result in an increase in imports of food, much of which is produced to lower standards, higher carbon emissions and food miles.
It is worth remembering that it is farmers who produce food and have done so for centuries. They also care for and protect the environment, and ensure that our country is ‘a green and pleasant land’. You only need to look at areas which have been ‘managed’ by non-farming organisations, to see what they considered to be environmentally friendly farming - leaving it to God and nature - resulted is an expensive mess, and environmental disaster.
The NFU’s Brexit consultation period ends on Wednesday 14 September, the day the union will host its Back British Farming Day. They will urge MPs to pledge support for domestic food and farming, a theme which will hopefully be taken on board by the public.
Who would have thought that West Sussex farmer James Wright and his fellow British pig farmers, could be helping to keep the Chinese Communist party in power?
The connection between pork and power, as reported in the Sunday Telegraph, is perplexing, but goes back deep into China’s historic love affair with the meat.
Since the 1970s, China has annually consumed half the world’s pork, which today equates to 148lbs (63kg) per person. Pig meat is so important to the Chinese that the government fears unrest if supply dwindles and prices climb too high.
Currently British pigs are helping to shore up Chinese communism, by helping to fill the vast, icy warehouses, situated in every corner of China, packed to the rafters with frozen pork - their “Strategic Pork Reserve”.
The goal is to maintain the price of pork, a barometer of food prices at an affordable rate.
Not all the pork is frozen, ‘some is alive and oinking’. The live stock is rotated every four months between the hundreds of commercial farms, of which there is one in almost every province. Between the frozen and live animals, the reserve holds up to 200,000 tons of pork, which equates to less than 0.5pc of China’s total pork stock.
In May stock was released when prices went up 28.4pc, after a rise in feed costs, and again in July when flooding took its toll on pigs in a number of key provinces. Since when China has been buying up as much pork from Europe as it can, and recently Beijing, concerned by public health and climate change, has outlined plans to try and halve Chinese citizen’s meat intake by 2030.
Pig farmers in the UK are understandably more excited by the opportunity to increase their sales, than they are perturbed by the idea they are propping up the communist party by helping it keep pork prices stable. As James Wright said, “it’s a human right to eat, and as a farmer, I want to sell food”.