WHAT has seemed like constant heavy rainfall for months is now making harvesting extremely difficult for our farmers.
Even when the crops are safely in the barn, farmers face sky-high drying costs as a result of the soggy conditions and rising fuel prices.
Nationally about 35 per cent of wheat still needs harvesting. Concern has also been expressed that livestock producers face falling market values as sheep and beef cattle are losing weight as some have been unable to spend a summer out-side at grass.
Farmers have said spiralling fuel prices have made this their most expensive crop ever and warn that a poor wheat crop could spark another hike in food prices. Food prices have risen in the UK by 10 per cent in the last year. According to figures from the British Retail Consortium, world food prices are rising due to a combination of factors including population pressures, changing diets, climate change and changes in land use such as biofuel production.
Surely now is the time to use public procurement to back British farming. According to recent DEFRA data, only five per cent of NHS orchard fruits, such as apples, come from Britain and not a single rasher of bacon procured by the MOD is from a British farm. The public sector in England spends £2 billion on food and catering services this could be used to much greater effect to support British farmers.
We cannot be complacent about food security. The UK's self-sufficiency in food production is decreasing - in indigenous food it has fallen from 85 per cent in 1996 to 73 per cent in 2005.
Domestic production is a necessary condition for food security, which ever country we are talking about. We should not be competing in the world market at the expense of the developing world but focusing on producing our own food and helping developing countries with improved technologies.
DEFRA has implemented over a thousand new regulations in the last eight years, many of them at great cost for little tangible benefit. Not only is this approach frustrating and expensive for farmers, it's also affecting the farming industry's competitiveness.
There are many ways the Government can help our farmers at this very difficult time. In an uncertain future, where climate change and international insecurity challenge traditional ways of being and doing, it is of strategic importance for the UK to secure its food supply.